Bed Bugs Infest Gramercy Green

By Caroline Haskins, Deputy News Editor

Bed bugs have been feasting on residents of Gramercy Green Residence Hall since late May in at least three rooms on two separate floors, even after multiple sprays by NYU’s exterminator contractor AKA Pest Control.  

Kayla Bullwinkel, a Steinhardt junior, woke up on Saturday, Sept. 16 with bite marks on her feet, arms and face.

After filing a work request with the NYU Facilities and Construction Management Client Services Center, her room was inspected the same day. Bullwinkel then called Client Services, who said that “the request hadn’t been completed.” Another inspector is scheduled to visit her room on Tuesday, Sept. 19 or Thursday, Sept. 21.

“I looked at the back of my tapestry, and there were little black dots, which is evidence that bed bugs had been there — basically excrements that they leave behind,” Bullwinkel said. “Then I looked between my mattress top and my mattress and found the exoskeletons that they shed. It was really gross.”

Bullwinkel, her parents and a Gramercy Green Residence Assistant communicated with the Center for Student Life, NYU Housing Services, Gramercy Green Building Leadership Team and NYU’s Department of Public Safety. No party received official acknowledgement that bed bugs were found during the inspection that occurred Saturday morning.

NYU Public Affairs did not return requests for comment.

After washing clothes in hot water, Bullwinkel’s parents spent $300 for her to stay in a hotel on Saturday night. Bullwinkel did not receive a temporary housing offer, which frustrated her.

“I will sleep on floor of Andrew Hamilton’s penthouse,” Bullwinkel said jokingly. “Just give me a place to sleep.”

After checking into the hotel, Bullwinkel received an email from Briana Matthew, residence hall director for the Residential College Program. Matthew said that Bullwinkel’s room tested positive for bed bugs and instructed her not to relocate to another room, throw items away or attempt to exterminate the bugs on her own.

The email also provided instructions for preparing her room for treatment and offered to refund her a maximum of $100 for laundry expenses.

Bullwinkel said that after following these instructions, Gramercy Green Residence Hall Director Will McGrath arranged for her room to be treated at 9 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 18.

Bullwinkel made multiple requests for temporary housing on Saturday, Sept. 16 and Sunday, Sept. 17. Bullwinkel received a response to her requests just before 9 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17.

Matthew told Bullwinkel that NYU bed bug policy does not provide temporary housing for affected students. However, Matthew said that because of the miscommunications between NYU Maintenance and Client Services, she was able to offer Bullwinkel one-night hotel style accommodations in Greenwich Residence Hall.

“It was a three bedroom suite in Greenwich, and two of the rooms were occupied by residents,” Bullwinkel said. “I get in there, and there’s a bare blue mattress on a bed frame, a pillow with no pillow case on the desk, a set of sheets and one of those old felt blankets.”

At 1:10 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 18, Bullwinkel received an email from McGrath informing her that AKA Pest Control had not yet treated her room. The room was available at 7 p.m. on Monday, but bed bug-infested bags were not cleared from the room, as Bullwinkel claims that Matthew promised.

After hearing about the bed bug-infested bags, Gramercy Green maintenance employee Engracia Medina personally removed the bags from Bullwinkel’s room.

Bullwinkel said that she wants the university to acknowledge that its bed bug policy needs to be improved.

“It’s total negligence,” she said. “They can say that things didn’t go to procedure all they want, and that’s fine. But even if their policy had been followed, there still would’ve been problems. I was given no place to sleep, which is ridiculous.”

CAS junior Josselyne Zuniga, who lives with Bullwinkel, said that she just wants to return to normalcy.

“I just want to do homework,” Zuniga said. “And I’ve never wanted to do homework.”

Medina also said that bed bugs were treated in at least one room on the eighth floor on Sept. 18. WSN was unable to contact the residents of this room.

Federico Penella, a junior in Tisch, started noticing bite marks on his arms and legs as early as May 29. He had a summer housing contract to live in Gramercy Green room 1803. His suitemate, a student from the University of Miami, also noticed bite marks.

“At first I thought they were from a mosquito that got caught in the room,” Penella said. “I hadn’t had any sort of bug problem all year.”

Penella received an email from Gramercy Green Residence Hall Director Will McGrath on May 30 informing him that his suitemate from the University of Miami moved out, and his other four scheduled suitemates were relocated to different rooms. Penella was also given instructions to prepare for an exterminator treatment the following day, May 31.

However, Penella said that his particular room was not treated, and he continued to receive bites.

“I was unable to move rooms, sleeping on my bed and being bitten every night,” Penella said. “[I got] bites on my feet, making it hard to walk. [I got] at least two new ones every morning. I tried to count them, but stopped after 20.”

After Penella’s mother contacted Residence Hall Director Will McGrath, Penella was refunded for one week’s cost of summer housing and given $25 in Campus Cash to refund his laundry fees.

Penella’s suite was sprayed three times between May 29 and June 7, but bed bugs were found in the suite room adjacent to Panella’s as late as July 25. The room was sprayed a third time.

Penella said that if he did not have to fight for a clean place to sleep, he would have felt better cared for by the university.

“The entire experience was incredibly distressing, lasted for weeks and could have been made better if communication between everyone was more clear,” Penella said. “The fact that we have to stay in the infested room, be bitten, wait for treatment and still be paying for it is absurd.”

Correction: Sept. 20, 2017

A previous version of this article stated that Bullwinkle contacted the Student Resource Center. In the summer of 2017, the Student Resource Center merged with the Center for Student Activities, Leadership, and Service to form the Center for Student Life. The article has been updated to reflect this change in name.

Email Caroline Haskins at [email protected].