Night of the Living Pests New York City Pros Tell Their Infestation Horror Stories

Few people in the New York City area—be they renters, buyers, or even just commuters—have managed to navigate the daily grind without coming eye-to-eye or face-to-face with pests such as ants, bees, mice, rats or roaches. Stumbling upon them is so routine that many of us have developed a degree of immunity, only turning our heads at something particularly obscene. The Cooperator reached out to several professionals from various walks of condominium and co-op life to hear their horror stories, and learn how this scourge could have been avoided.


"We were on a job and opened up a compactor room. It was like National Geographic down there," recalls Lloyd Gartin, the owner of Long Island-based Select Exterminating Co. "At least 50 to 100 rats running wild. We'd turned up an old, large storage area which no one really knew existed. Rats were running from the street where they stored the garbage into the said storage space, and from there into the building. We stopped counting after we killed about 200. People tend to view pest control as a one-off $100 or $200 expense, but these large infestations can run into the thousands. The only way to resolve them is by putting detailed man hours into baiting, mass trapping and closing holes."

And when it comes to the rat's cuddlier but by-no-means health-conscious brethren, the mouse, some people have expressed an unusual affection for the little fellas. “I have had people say to me, literally, 'Don't kill the mice, just the bugs. The mice don't bother me,'” relays Jeffrey Dworkin, the president of Ecology Exterminating Service Corp, based in Brooklyn. “We ask them if they're sure they want to do this, but should they insist, we do our job. We try to calmly advise everyone to do the right thing; that extermination is no substitute for sanitation. You need to clean up your dirty dishes, take out your garbage, etc. But some people just don't listen.”


"I represented a co-op where I got a call from a shareholder saying that she'd been seeing a lot of roaches," says Steve Birbach, president and CEO of Vanderbilt Property Management, LLC in Glenwood Landing. "Then the person above her calls, then the person next door, so on and so forth. We booked an exterminator and they treated to no avail. The tenants got restless, going to Home Depot, buying all sorts of nonsense. There were threatening calls about how they were going to reach out to newspapers if nothing got done; it was really bad. Just an ugly scene for a few weeks. Eventually, we hired an alternate exterminator, who quickly realized that the garbage chutes weren't being cleaned frequently enough. On top of that, tenants were throwing raw garbage down the chutes. If you're cleaning every quarter, that's just not enough if people aren't even putting trash in plastic bags. After six months of cleaning more frequently and disinfecting, we got back on schedule. But one woman had actually moved into a hotel because she couldn't take it anymore. She was literally sharing her bed with the roaches."

Occasionally, an infestation will get bad enough such that an owner inversely becomes disinclined to report it due to embarrassment. “We once walked into a kitchen, and there was double-sided Scotch tape around the room with roaches stuck to it,” relates Dworkin. “It was gross. And people were sitting down eating cereal in this kitchen adorned with immobilized bugs. It was crazy.”


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Q&A: Of Mice and Management

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  • I can't help but notice that one of your contributors, Steve Birbach has once again made disparaging remarks about shareholders. This man should not be a contributor to your paper as I have noticed before he always seems to put management above the shareholders, who are his employers. I would not want him to manage anything for me. It is the maintenance staff's responsibility to clean,disinfect and maintain compactors. In addition there should be an outside service coming in to do this. After that it is the property manager's responsibility to supervise the staff in doing so. The compactor should have been checked by Mr. Birbach or one of his associates long before the cockroach infestation became out of hand. Where was the monthly exterminator and what was he/she doing? Saying tenants throw garbage down a compactor unbagged is ludicrous. Bags may pop open. If you are not supposed to throw "raw" garbage down can you throw any garbage down? It is a garbage chute. Blaming the tenants is inappropriate and should not be published. Calling tenants nonsensical for complaining and trying to solve it themselves is denigrating. I have noticed this tendency on his part before. None of your other contributors take that approach.