Council forms board to squash bed bugs

Confronted with a bed bug epidemic in New York City, the City Council passed legislation Wednesday, March 11, creating a Bed Bug Advisory Board to put government “at the center of mitigation efforts,” according to the bill’s lead sponsor, Councilmember Gale Brewer.

The Advisory Board will be comprised of representatives from the Departments of Consumer Affairs, Health and Mental Hygiene, Sanitation, Information Technology and Communications and Housing Preservation. The Board, which will also include pest management and community health professionals as well as an entomologist, will track and fight bed bug outbreaks and develop public awareness and treatment strategies to be implemented across the city. Members of the board will not be compensated.

“Bedbugs are back and for the tens of thousands whose homes have been infested they are no longer an urban legend but a personal and financial nightmare,” Brewer said in a statement. She called the legislation a “milestone” in taking on the pests that were widely exterminated in the U.S. after World War II before resurging recently, particularly in buildings with high turnover.

“One of New York City’s smallest pests has become one of our biggest headaches,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in the statement, heralding the Council’s actions.

While the City Health Department currently provides a bed bug fact sheet – in English and Spanish – available by calling 3-1-1 and through nyc.gov, prior to the passing of the Council’s legislation the city’s eradication efforts paled in comparison to those in other large municipalities.

At a Health and Sanitation hearing prior to the Council’s vote, Consumer Affairs Chair Leroy Comrie thanked Brewer for her diligence and underscored the serious health threat posed by bed bugs. He noted the Council needed to “do everything in our power to raise awareness and address this crisis. Particularly, in this economic climate where many city residents may not be able to afford extermination service.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Queens Courier broke the story of the growing bed bug epidemic in January of 2006 in a cover story and with a series of follow up stories and editorials in support of City Councilmember Brewer’s efforts to pass legislation to eradicate the pests.

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