Local bedbug coalition says “epidemic” in Kingston needs government attention

KINGSTON, N.Y. >> Bed bugs are invading mattresses, box springs, and homes throughout Kingston, according to a local, ad hoc awareness group that took the issue to a Common Council committee.

A representative of the Bedbug Coalition last week asked the Law and Rules Committee to adopt stricter guidelines to regulate how landlords handle bed bugs.

“There is no law about bed bugs in Kingston right now,” said coalition speaker Francesca Portolano. “It’s very generic; tenants have to be responsible for treating an infestation of any kind, if the landlord claims there was no previous infestation prior to the tenant moving in,” she said.

Portolano said bed bugs are widespread and the situation has reached epidemic proportions.

“This is a parasite, so … the host is you and I. So we are all at risk. If you speak to the Health Department, we are all at risk in the city,” she said. “So, if you go to (a retailer) and try on clothes, you can sit at a booth in a diner or in a chair at a doctor’s office,– we are all susceptible. The Health Department feels that they don’t want to get involved because this is not a parasite that transmits disease like ticks that transmit Lyme disease.”

Dan Gartenstein, assistant corporation counsel, advised the committee that he can prosecute landlords under the existing “unsafe condition” clause of the building code.

“Changing the legislation isn’t going to do it. It’s not a matter of legislation, it’s a matter of enforcement and communication,” Garenstein said.

The coalition was instructed to advise affected tenants to report bed bug infestation to the city’s Building Department, which will then issue the landlord an order to remedy.

The coalition was invited to return to the committee at a later date and report progress eradicating the scourge.

Health Department officials have made available an information pamphlet that was published by New York City.

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