NY city 911 dispatch center is crawling with bedbugs, NYPD operators say
911 call operators first found bedbugs in a room at the Public Safety Answering Center II and bug-sniffing dogs have been finding the critters ever since
Kerry Burke and John Annese
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — Please state the nature of your bedbug emergency.
The city’s 911 call center in the Bronx has been crawling with bedbugs for the past two weeks, and the NYPD won’t pull out its personnel to fumigate, several 911 operators told the Daily News.
Emergency call operators first found bedbugs in a sixth-floor training room at the Public Safety Answering Center II in Pelham Bay on June 3, and bug-sniffing dogs have been finding the critters in several rooms where NYPD personnel operate ever since, sources familiar with the building said.
Dogs have found the bugs in a lobby couch, in vendor areas, and other common areas, sources said.
The massive 450,000 square-foot center along the Hutchinson River Parkway employs about 300 NYPD personnel, 120 fire dispatch and 120 EMS personnel every day, sources said.
NYPD spokesman Phillip Walzak said Tuesday that the building is run by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, and noted that whenever an infestation of any kind is reported “it is quickly remediated with the help of professionals.”
On Monday, the Uniformed Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association, which represents the FDNY operators, filed a public employee safety and health complaint with the department of labor, union president Faye Smith said.
The union was planning to pull its employees from the building and move them to the MetroTech Center in Brooklyn, but so far the bugs have only been found in the NYPD parts of the building, sources said.
The FDNY hasn’t found any bedbugs in its sections of the building, spokesman Jim Long said.
“We took immediate action by bringing the dogs up,” he said.
“I can’t be talking to no press. Please do the story,” said one NYPD operator standing outside the center as she checked her arms, looking for bites.
“It’s spread throughout all the building, floors one to six,” she said. "“Everybody’s being bitten. We’re all jumpy, afraid to touch anything.”
DCAS workers have steamed the infested areas after searching with dogs, another police communication technician told The News.
“Basically, we’ve been having numerous hits every other day with bedbugs,” he said. “This is an epidemic that has been going on for about two, two and half weeks. The only thing they’re really doing is steaming. Once they steam, they pop up somewhere else.”
DCAS sent exterminators to the building five times, and found four bedbugs, an agency spokesman said Tuesday.
“When an employee reported evidence of bedbugs at the facility, immediate action was taken. Exterminators have serviced the facility five times over the last three weeks,” DCAS spokesman Nick Benson said. "The most recent inspection found no remaining evidence of bedbugs, but monitoring will remain ongoing.”
A worker at the 911 call center admitted to having an infestation at home, DCAS officials said.
Workers removed a piece of furniture from building – the lobby couch – sources said.
The ordeal has left the 911 operators on edge, with many wondering if they should be moved to MetroTech to let an exterminator fumigate their facilities.
“They’re nervous, they’re walking around, scratching themselves, thinking there’s something crawling on them,” the technician said.
Another operator criticized DC 37, the union representing the NYPD 911 operators, saying they haven’t responded fast enough.
A DC 37 spokesman didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday night.
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