Some of New York City's most iconic buildings have faced attacks by the dreaded cimex lectularius, commonly known as the bedbug and more threatening, in its insidious way, than King Kong. Confirmed bedbug infestations in the Big Apple rose from 82 to 4,084 in the years 2004-2009, and unlucky apartment dwellers are not the only victims. Swank locations like the Waldorf-Astoria hotel and Lincoln Center are also dealing with bedbug reports. Here, a rundown of the pests' more major conquests:
1. The United Nations
Are bedbugs seeking world dominance? According to an October 28 National Journal report, the United Nations has been fighting bedbugs in its famed building since last year. The U.N. thought it had the problem licked until specially trained dogs sniffed out bedbugs in some of the building's conference room chairs (all of which have been replaced) late in October. "This must be Ahmadinejad's doing," cracked Adrien Chen at Gawker.
2. Lincoln Center
According to an Oct. 13 report in The New York Observer, the famed cultural center has fallen prey. Although bedbug-sniffing dogs apparently found specimens in the carpets and costumes of the David H. Koch Theater's dressing rooms, which are being treated, the "public areas" of the theaters are reportedly clear. "Please understand that this is an epidemic," the theater's managing director, Mark Heiser, told the Observer in an email. "Any signs of bedbug activity should not be considered a sign of an untidy house."
A Florida woman has told the New York Post that the hotel upgraded her to a luxury room on Sept. 25 after she complained about painful bedbug bites. "We were grossed out," says the guest. However, the hotel denies there's an outbreak. "No bedbugs or trace of bedbugs were found in the room in contention," said Robert Allegrini, a spokesman for Hilton Worldwide, which runs the Waldorf.
4. The Empire State Building
The 102-storey Art Deco tower — the tallest in the world from 1931 to 1972 — is one of New York's most-visited attractions, so it's no surprise bedbugs found their way inside. Fortunately, according to an August 21 Daily News report, the invasion was isolated to a staff changing area in the skyscraper's basement. Nevertheless, tourists were unimpressed by the news. "That's nasty and gross," one told the Daily News.
In late September, the city's iconic department store released a statement saying a single bedbug had been found in its flagship store on East 59th Street. "We identified it and removed it promptly," a company statement read. "We are confident that we have thoroughly addressed the problem," Of course, the Bloomie's bedbug was probably not working alone. "It is unlikely in the middle of New York's bedbug epidemic with 1 in 15 New Yorkers fighting bedbugs that there is a single bed bug in the store," says Glenn Waldorf of Bell Environmental Services, as quoted on MyFoxNY.com.
Bedbugs forced the fashion mag's offices to close in late August and struck terror in the heart of fashion lovers. "What will happen to all the clothing samples in the fashion closet?" asked Danica Lo at Racked. "Will they be returned to showrooms complete with creepy crawlies ready to go forth and conquer the rest of the fashion industry." Lucky for Elle staffers, the magazine just moved to new and, they hope, bedbug-free offices in the Time Inc. Building.
7. Times Square's AMC Empire 25 Theater
Although Times Square was once no stranger to undesirables, it has since become renowned as a clean and friendly tourist area. Nevertheless, Times Square's AMC Empire 25 multiplex — the busiest theater in the country — shut its doors for 24 hours to call in exterminators after customers complained of bedbug bites in mid-August. The theater reopened soon after it was free of the tiny pests.
8. New York Public Library
Managers at the iconic midtown-Manhattan branch of the New York Public Library denied anonymous employees' claims of an all-out infestation in early August, pointing out that only two specimens were found near the branch's circulation desk. Nevertheless, the library took immediate measures, according to New York Public Library spokesperson Gail Snible. "We did not have an infestation," she said, "and we do not have bedbugs now."
9. Time Warner Center
Offices in Manhattan's Time Warner Center, home of CNN, Warner Brothers, and Time magazine, fell victim to a bedbug outbreak in August. A spokesperson for CNN, normally more used to reporting such incidents, said the building's management was taking "immediate action" to counteract the bugs.
10. Abercrombie, Hollister, and Victoria's Secret
Three clothing retail giants, Abercrombie and Fitch, Hollister, and Victoria's Secret, were all forced to temporarily close shop at heavily trafficked Manhattan locations earlier this year after bedbugs were discovered in the stores. If "you're bold enough to shop" in any of these locations, said Amy Odell in New York at the time, "you may want to pop anything you buy in the dryer for twenty minutes, as the bedbug experts suggest."
11. Fox News
CNN isn't the only news network to suffer an outbreak of pests. In 2008, Fox News Senior Vice President Warren Vanderveer admitted that they had discovered an outbreak in the cable channel's Manhattan newsroom after an employee "caught a bug and showed it to us." To find the source of the infestation, an exterminator investigated the homes of 20 employees, one of which had "the worst infestation he had seen in 25 years in the business."
12. Department of Health
For the second time in two years, a New York Health Department building in lower Manhattan had to shut its doors in 2009 after workers in the tuberculosis-prevention unit discovered the blood-sucking creatures in their office. Even though a Health Department building might be the last place you'd expect pests, "it's fairly common to have a couple of bedbugs brought in by an individual," according to department spokesperson Jessica Scaperotti. "It's not an infestation."
This article was originally published on August 23, and was last updated on October 28.
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