Las cucarachas Tenants complain of roach infestation at senior building

“I’ve watched seniors, 60, 70-year-old women run down hallways killing roaches,” said Hoboken Housing Authority commissioner Perry Belfiore at the October meeting of the Hoboken Housing Authority board.

Belfiore was referring to a roach problem that was thought to have been curtailed, but has since resurfaced at the federally-funded Fox Hill Gardens senior citizen building.

At October’s HHA meeting, residents, commissioners, and a city councilman vented their frustrations over the infestation, which some believe has significantly worsened.

HHA Commissioner Christopher Campos translated for Fox Hills Spanish-speaking resident Maria Aldecoa, who was at the meeting to complain.

“[When she] goes to the kitchen and opens the cupboards, there are cockroaches,” Campos explained. “When she sleeps at night she’s had cockroaches jump on her face and she thinks she’s dreaming – it’s a nightmare. She’s afraid that it’s gotten so bad that roaches might enter in through her ear.”

Councilman Michael Cricco also confronted the board, saying he received several complaints from residents who feel that not enough was being done to combat the problem. Cricco suggested a twice-monthly visit from the exterminator as opposed to the current monthly contractual visit.

Fox Hills resident Delores Reider seconded Cricco’s proposal.

“I would like to have the exterminator [here] at least twice a month,” said Reider. “The cockroaches are right in the mailbox. It’s really bad.”

The officials react

HHA Commissioner Perry Belfiore said that he requested the exterminator to attend October’s meeting, but he wasn’t able to. Belfiore expressed his frustration with the situation, which he said is systemic to the entire Housing Authority.

“If he’s not here at the next meeting, not only won’t he get paid, this board will look to break his contract,” said Belfiore

According to acting HHA Executive Director Robert DiVincent, the exterminator was not able to attend because he had a prior engagement.

Three to four months earlier, the exterminator attended another HHA meeting where he described the poison he used and explained how it was not harmful to those suffering from asthma. But some of the seniors still refused admittance to the exterminator according to DiVincent, who said advances have been made in controlling the roaches.

“I’ve walked in this building with the exterminator. I’ve been in probably 60 percent of the apartments,” he said. “This building has had a drastic improvement in the last two months.”

Rather than place the blame solely on the exterminator, the director believes much of the problem lies with residents refusing to allow the exterminator access to their apartments.

Since tenants have realized that they would be charged for repairs if they did not allow access, as part of the Maintenance Policy and Charge List that was re-adopted in September, 40 percent more tenants are now letting the exterminator in to spray their apartments, said DiVincent.

Aldecoa said that during the winter she travels to Florida, during which time no one is at her apartment to let in an exterminator. Then, she said, she returned to a “roach motel.”

Resilient buggers

This recent expression of disgust concerning roaches is not the first time. InJanuary, Hoboken’s Health Inspector Frank Sasso conducted a full inspection after Cricco, while walking through the building, saw what he described as “deplorable conditions” in the kitchen.

The kitchen was later closed when Sasso found “a large thick accumulation of rodent droppings [and] live and dead cockroaches in [its] food cabinets.” The compactor room and garbage shoot were also infested with roaches, according to Sasso.

Both Belfiore and Campos have repeatedly requested a Standard Operating Procedure from the exterminator in order to understand what exactly is being done in each apartment, but claim not to have received one yet.

Michael Mullins can be reached at


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