It's no fun living next door to a hoarder. If you share walls with someone who hasn't thrown food out in the better part of a decade, your space could be inundated with infestations, bad smells, and other unpleasantness, plus it's pretty difficult to mitigate the problem without resorting to a lengthy legal battle (and even that might not work). What might be worse than neighboring a hoarder, though, is having to clean up after one—such is the plight of contractor Martin Fernandez, who filmed his renovation crew picking through a cockroach-filled studio once inhabited by a unnamed hoarder on the Lower East Side.
Fernandez, who has been renovating apartments since 2005, posted a YouTube video of his visit to the fetid space last week, documenting its collection of over a year's worth of food refuse, bugs, and the decomposing corpse of the owner's recently deceased cat ("Everything is crawling," Fernandez can be heard saying in the video.) Here's the footage, but perhaps finish your lunch first:
We spoke with Fernandez, who told us the above apartment isn't the worst he's ever seen, but for Manhattan, it takes the cake. "The studio was half full of everything he ate within the last year and a half," Fernandez told Gothamist, regarding the apartment's previous tenant. "Basically he just went in there, drank himself drunk, and he just threw everything on the floor." The tenant recently moved to a new apartment in the neighborhood, Fernandez said.
Fernandez says he's seen apartments like this all over, and not even the city's ritziest areas are spared. "It usually happens where people don't expect it to be. Sometimes it's a rich neighborhood," he said. "You have Washington Heights, you have it in the Bronx, Brooklyn. It basically happens in every borough. People sometimes give up on life, depending on if they find out they have a disease, or something goes wrong in their life, or they start drinking. And then they forget about everything. And it no longer bothers them, it's like their sense of smell and everything just fades away."
Hoarding is actually a psychological disorder, defined by the Mayo Clinic as, "a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them." Individuals suffering from the disorder often experience distress and anxiety at the thought of throwing things away, and may find it a significant hindrance to their quality of life. It's often heartbreaking, and usually highly unsanitary.
"[The places are] always full of cats," Fernandez told Gothamist. "We have a lot of roaches and everything, but it's always like, you have dead cats and mice all over. But they've been dead for so long that it's practically like, skin flat on the floor, covered with debris.
"Sometimes you're picking up stuff and then you end up picking up a piece of animal or something without even realizing it," he added.
In the case of the above apartment, Fernandez said he found the body of the tenant's cat, which had recently disappeared. "One time [the tenant] was admitted to the hospital, and somebody was supposed to go pick up his cat. For some reason, I don't think they could find it" he said. "We tried to help locate the cat throughout that mess, but we couldn't find it, so we thought the cat escaped. The cat was forgotten about until we found him," though by then it was too late.
It's also noteworthy that these noxious spaces often end up being occupied by unwitting tenants after a surface renovation, with landlords and brokers failing to mention the horrors that were once (and might still be) inside. "Most of the issues with practically all real estate all around, you don't know what happened before you got there," Fernandez said. "Nobody's going to say anything, we're in New York. You have homeowners, landlords who want to collect on high rents, so they really don't give you too much detail. The only thing they try to say is, 'There was a full renovation, the apartment is brand new,' and that's all people care about."
And sometimes the spaces harbor more than just bugs and dead animals. "Sometimes, it never happened to me, but sometimes you end up smelling a bad smell, you have to go inside the apartment and you find a body," Fernandez said. "That's a whole different situation."