Bed Bugs In Public Housing, Woman Alleges
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Teresa Grocki diligently steams her floor and mattress, scrubs
her clothes and takes two scalding hot showers a day. At night, she
turns on her special overhead fluorescent spotlights.
But on Tuesday night, the 59-year-old resident of Stonequist
Apartments tried a new approach to fighting what she said was bed
bugs in her home. She attended a City Council meeting to inform the
community that the 176-unit high rise - the city's largest public
housing tenement - was infested with the pests, and urged city
leaders to find funding to eradicate them. (see accompanying
Bed Bugs - brown, wingless parasites that feed on human blood at
night - have proliferated around this tourist town throughout the
last 3-5 years, pest control workers said Wednesday. The insects
prefer to nest in seams of mattresses and sofas, but also in
crevices of all kind. Their bites itch, and can result in skin
rashes, allergies and other health problems. They hitch hike aboard
humans, luggage, clothing and more.
"I had thought I was losing my dignity by speaking like this,
but I find I have found dignity by speaking out," Grocki told the
council. Fighting back tears, she said, "We don't want this to
grow. We don't want this to be a secret anymore."
Bed bugs can also pose psychological challenges, and their
reputation of existing in only unsanitary conditions makes them
hard to discuss, Grocki said. In a follow-up interview Wednesday,
she alleged that Edward Spychalski, director of the Saratoga
Springs Housing Authority, warned residents in August not to tell
members of the media about the bed bug problems in the Federal
Street building, which is home to low and moderate income
residents. Spychalski told those who lived there that he didn't
have the money to fix the problem, and if they didn't like the
living conditions, they could move, Grocki said.
Spychalski did not respond to request for a comment. The
Saratoga Springs Housing Authority is a federally funded government
agency that operates under the auspices of the mayor, according to
Mayor Scott Johnson said Wednesday that his office had sent a
code enforcement officer to the high rise after recently being
contacted about a possible bug problem. The city wants to assist
residents, but it was trying to determine who had jurisdiction over
the matter, Johnson said.
Several Stonequist residents signed statements of support for
exterminating the bed bugs in Stonequist. Backed by a handful of
other residents of the apartment building, Grocki delivered the
signatures to the City Council. Grocki said her objective was not
to attack Spychalski, but draw attention to the bed bugs and need
The bugs likely arrived with travelers from other cities, said
James Wang, owner of Able Pest Control. "I would get calls only
occasionally five years ago. Now, every week I get calls for bed
bugs, sometimes every day," Wang said. The insects concentrate in
the downtown parts of cities, especially in hotels, motels and
apartment buildings, he said.
Luis Pabon, technical director at CatsEye Pet Control, burns or
freezes the bugs. Removing bed bugs from a huge building is an
expensive project that can take months, even years, because every
room that surrounds an infested room must be completely treated and
maintained, Pabon said. Even five-star hotels get bed bugs, he
"Because of the negative stigma associated with bed bugs, a lot
of people have a tendency to keep it quiet, which isn't the best
approach," Pabon said.
The Saratoga County Health Department does not track bed
Grocki moved to the city from Miami seven years ago. She lives
in a 400-square-foot apartment near the middle of the nine-story
building. She pays rent through Social Security disability
payments. She found her first bed bug on her pillow during the
early morning of Nov. 7. She captured it and saved it in a jar.
She's suffered numerous bites and bouts of itching.
Getting rid of the bed bugs in Stonequist Apartments would cost
about $25,000, Grocki said, citing an estimate that a pest control
company recently gave her. She says she wants her old life - her
old sleeping patterns - back.
"Really, I loved living here until Nov. 7," Grocki said. "Now,