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Bedbugs Feast on UWS Seniors as Management Ignores Complaints, Tenants Say

By Jackson Chen | October 11, 2017 6:23pm
 Cebollero's mattress box springs are teeming with the parasites.
Cebollero's mattress box springs are teeming with the parasites.
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Jackie Laro

UPPER WEST SIDE — Bedbug infestations are terrorizing tenants of a senior residence as management there has continually failed to address the problem, residents say.

The parasites have been found in several apartments, as well as the laundry room of the 119-unit apartment at 315 W. 61st St., a rent-subsidized building constructed in 2007 that is restricted to those at least 62 years old, tenants said.

"I haven't slept for two weeks," said fourth-floor resident Nellie Cebollero, who noted that she reached out to the building's superintendent multiple times with evidence of bites on her arm, neck and face, but was repeatedly ignored or brushed off.

"Every time I complain, they don't listen to me. When I show them my arm, they say it's nothing."

According to Cebollero, bedbugs were crawling beneath her mattress box spring and coming in through her vents. The tenant, who's been living in the building for nearly two years, said she also captured the insects in plastic bags to show to the super.

She added other residents have spotted bedbugs in their apartments and that the laundry room was closed off due to an infestation.

Cebollero's daughter, Jackie Laro, used poison to kill off as many bedbugs as she could and purchased a mattress wrap to trap the remaining pests. Laro said she's been trying to convince the super to hire exterminators to resolve the infestation.

"My mother didn't sleep because she was so scared," Laro said. "They were sucking on her when she woke up and she would find them on her mattress."

Laro said an exterminator visited her mother's apartment on Tuesday for an inspection and left shortly after, only recommending spraying undiluted alcohol on the bedbugs for now.

According to the city's Housing and Maintenance Code, bedbugs are listed as pests that landlords are legally obligated to eradicate. If the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development inspects the apartment and finds bedbugs, the owner is subject to violations and fines, and in the future must provide tenants with a bedbug infestation history.

An spokesperson from HPD said there's no open violations for bedbugs at the building, but added that a complaint was reported on Oct. 6 and that the office would reach out to the tenant to schedule an inspection. Laro confirmed on Wednesday that HPD reached out to her mother for an inspection over the weekend.

The building's management company, Wavecrest Management, did not return requests for comment.

“bedbugs2”Nellie Cebollero (left) and her daughter Jackie Laro outside their bedbug-infested apartment building. (DNAinfo/Jackson Chen)

Daniel Kassell, treasurer for the building's tenant association, said bedbugs have been a persistent problem for three years due to management's lax response. He's observed extermination companies find bedbugs in certain apartments, but then take too long to get rid of them.

"It takes some time for them to identify the fact that there are bedbugs and then they have a weekly schedule, which is not a responsive schedule to handling bedbugs," Kassell said of previous exterminators. "Therefore, we've found one of the problems is that the bedbug infestation has an opportunity to grow more rapidly from the first notice through to the opportunity to come in and spray."

The tenant association member also noted that there have been cases in the past where tenants wouldn't allow exterminators inside their apartments, leading to further infestation while a court order was obtained.

But for Cebollero, it's been difficult for the super to even acknowledge the bedbug-ridden apartment she's been forced to sleep in.

"My mother went to the super and he brushed her off, he wasn't helpful at all, and didn't even address it to management," Laro said. "She said she got tired of asking them because they wouldn't do anything for her."