A colleague in the group asked me if I really meant to leave our assessment of the New York City Council hearing at great. The hearing was, in fact, great because a) it was evident that the importance of the difficult bed bug situation in our city had already been grasped, and b) there were unmistakable signals that support for some form of legislative action had gained momentum.
But there is no doubt that we had some disappointments as newcomers to our city’s political process. I was not around for the 2006 bed bug hearing so my impressions had been entirely formed by reading the transcript. On Tuesday I was struck by the theatricality of a public hearing and the inherent communication inefficiencies.
So, anyway, a list of some of the disappointments, just to keep things honest.
Hurrying up Lou
The City Council thought Lou was taking too long to read his testimony and proceeded to hurry him up several times. We did not appreciate this. Lou Sorkin has done so much to help the people of this city who are struggling with bed bugs.
This is an excerpt of Lou Sorkin’s testimony:
The proposed legislation concerned with reconditioned mattresses will have a positive affect on reducing bed bug infestation in the city since a primary bed bug reservoir will be dealt with, but much more will have to be done via creation of the Bed Bug Task Force in order to control the spread of this insect in New York City. The Task Force must integrate many disciplines and agencies within the city to tackle the bed bug problem. Cooperation must be mandatory between landlords, managing agents, renters, coop and condo owners, pest management and sanitation personnel not to mention hospitals, nursing and rehabilitation facilities, but also hotel staff and the tourist industry if bed bugs are to be controlled. If people don’t work together the bed bug problem will not go away but will snowball. [...] An integrated pest management strategy must be followed. Intro 57, 872, 873-A and Res 1414 must be passed if bed bug control is going to work in New York City. They can be amended as required. Bed bug education in our city will have to be multifaceted and on a multilingual level to convey the information to everyone.
No questions for Ray?
Ray Lopez of Little Sisters of the Assumption is working on an innovative plan that has some important similarities to Toronto’s successful Bug and Scrub, a social purpose enterprise. I was very much looking forward to his testimony. But there were no questions for Ray. A missed opportunity. We hope that if there is ever a bed bug task force in our city that Ray will be tapped.
Who would buy them?
Andrew Eiler represented the Department of Consumer Affairs at this hearing as he did in 2006.
To a question from Consumer Affairs Committee Chair Leroy Comrie about warning consumers that reconditioned mattresses are potentially infested, Mr. Eiler responded that it would be an overly-broad warning and that, yes, who would buy them?
Exactly. Who would buy mattresses infected with pathogens and harboring bed bugs? Sometimes I just have no words. But I’ll say this, we are hoping for a more compassionate interest in the bed bug problems we face.
Not an important vector
Virtually all the experts acknowledged reconditioned mattresses as a vector but essentially dismissed them as an important vector. This is incorrect in our view. First, we have little knowledge of the actual size of the industry and who the institutional customers are. Improperly sanitized reconditioned mattresses are not just sold to consumers, they are sold to nursing homes, jails, motels, etc. The breadth is unknown and unstudied. Second, everything counts! Everything we can do to reduce the numbers of new infestations is important. Further, improperly sanitized reconditioned mattresses unfairly burden the poor and disadvantaged, those who are least able to afford illness (because of the pathogens!) or access to qualified pest control (because of the bed bugs!)—we cannot continue to shift these costs to those who cannot bear them.
As daunting as it is, we will have to do more research ourselves because we feel this is an important issue that is poorly understood.
The representative of the International Sleep Products Association mentioned mattress recycling and how there is no recycling center in our area. When we looked into this some months ago we found that it’s difficult to make a profitable business out of it, so much so that a successful Canadian company offers free mentoring to anyone who is interested in learning the business. Nevertheless, it is an idea worth exploring.
More to follow, including why the administration witnesses all held to the idea of a bed bug task force like a life saver. A bed bug task force is the newest greatest idea ever, haven’t you heard?