Transit employees are accusing the MTA of not doing enough to suppress a bedbug outbreak at a crucial subway control tower in Queens, after the bloodthirsty parasites were spotted inside the facility for the second time in a week.
The control tower was evacuated and fumigated last Wednesday, prompting widespread delays and train cancellations during the evening rush hour. As the Daily News first reported, the same complex — located at Forest Hills-71st Avenue — was besieged yet again on Monday.
MTA spokesperson Tim Minton confirmed to Gothamist that "one apparent bedbug" was observed inside the tower yesterday afternoon, and that two others were found last week. Minton disputed that this qualifies as an "infestation," emphasizing that the source of the problem remains unknown. The most recent bedbug has been "secured," he added.
Transit employees, meanwhile, are criticizing the agency's handling of the itchy issue.
"The MTA habitually puts service before employee safety," said Tramell Thompson, an MTA conductor and union activist. "You think MTA Chairman Pat Foye would work in his office if a bedbug was found? You think he will wait before an exterminator to come before he stops working? Why can’t workers get that same respect?"
The bedbugs were actually first reported by MTA staff in December. But while bug-sniffing dogs failed to find anything, sources told the NY Post the dogged pests were spotted near a cloth chair on January 8th. Those chairs were reportedly thrown out Monday night and the facility was fumigated once again.
"We believe the fumigation that occurred January 22nd would have eliminated any bugs present in the small tower at that time," added Minton. "There were then zero bugs sighted for five days."
Local bedbug expert Bill Swan questioned this approach to bedbugs — noting that a buffer period is necessary between fumigation rounds to ensure full eradication
"The standard in the city is a minimum of two visits, staged at least ten days apart," Swan, who runs NYC Pest Control, told Gothamist. "Those eggs are wrapped in fat, so sometimes if you spray an egg it just gets absorbed in there." (Enjoy more skin-crawling facts from bedbug man Bill Swan here.)
Following last week's outbreak, NYC Transit President Andy Byford issued a statement apologizing to customers affected by the delays and assuring employees that they were working to ensure their safety. A few hours later, he announced his resignation.