PATERSON, NJ – Robert Isaiah, a resident at the Paterson YMCA, says he has become somewhat of an expert on bed bugs.
“I must inspect every inch of my clothing prior to putting them on and I still miss the baby ones because they are imperceptible to the naked eye. The only time they are visible,’’ he said in a message sent to Senator Nellie Pou, “is when they have bit you and become gorged with blood.’’
Isaiah says the bedbug problem at the YMCA on Ward Street has become so bad that the facility ought to be shut down until the pests can be eradicated. But officials at the YMCA say some residents are overstating the problem.
“It’s not a huge problem,’’ said Vanessa Paynter, the YMCA’s executive director. “If it was a huge problem, we would be shut down.’’
But city health officials have received enough complaints about bed bugs at the YMCA and other places, including the Riverview Towers and the Colt Arms apartments, that they held a meeting last month with the managers and owners of several housing complexes.
Next, the city plans to hold a meeting with the residents of those apartments to discuss ways to get rid of the bugs and to prevent them from spreading, according to Donna Nelson-Ivy, Paterson’s director of health and human services.
Paynter says the YMCA has exterminators come to the building at least every two weeks, a practice that she says was in place for all pests, not just bed bugs. Also, Paynter said, the YMCA no longer allows its residents to bring in furniture from their previous homes to prevent them from bringing in bed bugs into the facility.
“We have people going through dumpsters, bringing things in with them,’’ Paynter said.
Pou said she was aware of the complaints and believes the city is working on the problem. “There’s a mutual responsibility for both the landlords and the tenants,’’ Pou said. “This isn’t just a problem in Paterson. It’s a problem in urban areas in all parts of the state.’’
Isaiah said he didn’t have a problem with bed bugs until he moved into the YMCA. He said there’s a “psychological stigma attached to being infected. I no longer visit friends or offices if I can avoid it.’’