STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Staten Islanders residing in developments operated by the New York City Housing Authority filed nearly 2,000 bedbug and roach complaints in the first nine months of last year.
NYCHA data obtained by the Legal Aid Society shows nearly 60,000 such complaints across the city in the same time period. On average, those complaints were closed within 10 days — something the Legal Aid Society’s Attorney-In-Charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit Judith Goldiner pointed to as good news.
To continue addressing the issue and others facing NYCHA tenants, Goldiner called for more funding for the authority, particularly on the state level.
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-East Shore/South Brooklyn) has advocated for tenants with both city and federal officials. In March, she was accompanied by the regional director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Lynn Patton, for a tour of the New Lane Area and South Beach NYCHA developments.
“In the 2018-2019 State Budget, we invested $250 million to improve conditions at NYCHA including mold, lead, bug infestation,” Malliotakis wrote in an email Monday. “The real question is what is NYCHA doing with the money because we can’t keep throwing more money into a blackhole.”
State Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn) echoed Malliotakis’ concerns about NYCHA management. Neither elected official said whether they would heed the call for more state funding to the housing authority.
“My colleagues and I, year after year, led the charge for increased funding for NYCHA,” Savino said. “This is a continuous management problem — just like with mold and faulty pipes. NYCHA needs to take these quality of life and health issues more seriously.”
Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Mid-Island) said he believes the insect infestations are “emblematic of decades-old challenges facing the housing complexes.”
“While I am encouraged that NYCHA has decreased the time it takes to address these infestations, I will continue to support increased funding and accountability for NYCHA in Albany,” he said.
Up until Sept. 4, Staten Islanders residing in NYCHA developments filed 1,839 complaints, and had average wait times of about eight days. Of those complaints, 143 were for bedbugs, according to the data.
Both the Cassidy-Lafayette and South Beach NYCHA developments had high levels of bedbug complaints. Of the 119 complaints at Cassidy-Lafayette, 40 were for bedbugs. Of the 188 complaints at South Beach, 35 were for bedbugs.
The remainder of the borough’s NYCHA developments had the following numbers:
- Berry — 169 complaints, 9 for bedbugs
- Mariners Harbor — 176 complaints, 11 for bedbugs
- New Lane Area — 102 complaints, 11 for bedbugs
- Richmond Terrace — 187 complaints, one for bedbugs
- Todt Hill — 189 complaints, 10 for bedbugs
- West Brighton I & II — 205 complaints, 11 for bedbugs
State Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) said he would consider increased state funding, but that NYCHA would first need to prove that management of its facilities is “on the right track.”
A NYCHA spokeswoman said their internal numbers show improvements to closed bedbug and roach work orders, and the time it takes to close bedbug orders, something she attributed to its new Integrated Pest Management system.
However, that system has also contributed to the increased wait time for roach complaints. Visits take longer, but result in fewer complaints due to increased prevention efforts, according to NYCHA.
Instead of simply spraying for roaches, exterminators are taking more care at developments by looking for holes, caulking and vacuuming. Bedbug wait times were not affected by these changes, because NYCHA treats them and rats as emergencies.
“NYCHA is working closely with the Federal Monitor on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques and a Pest Action Plan, as per the January 2019 agreement,” NYCHA spokeswoman Rochel Leah Goldblatt said.
In January 2019, the city reached a deal with HUD that allowed the department to install a monitor overseeing NYCHA’s management and required the city to make an additional investment of $2 billion over five years.
City estimates have put NYCHA’s capital need just over $30 billion.
Assemblyman Charles Fall (D-North Shore) said financial support is needed from all levels of government.
“No one wants their mother, brother, or child living in the horrendous conditions that are described by NYCHA residents; nor should we as elected officials want this for our constituents,” Fall said.
“Furthermore, we must ensure that NYCHA is held accountable; meaning all funds must be allocated sensibly and utilized to dramatically transform the shameful living conditions residents continue to describe.”