But folks who do cleaning for a living say trust no one. “There aren’t any roaches on Seventh Avenue,” said one cleaning guy who wanted to remain anonymous. “The buildings there, they put out a lot of poison.” But he’s seen them in high-end buildings on 42nd Street—and one building near the Chrysler? “A lot of mouses and roaches,” he said. “And that is a special building, fancy.”
High-end buildings like 76 Crosby Street, at the corner of Spring, where Harvey Weinstein once lived and where blog mogul Nick Denton watches Balthazar from his windows, don’t have roaches because there’s someone watching out for them.
They go, perhaps, over the top in vermin reduction. There the staff bleaches the sidewalks, washes the walls—and last year, when they briefly had fruit flies in the compactor room, they cleaned that sucker inside and out and that was done. (Someone was throwing coconuts down the chute.)
They’ll even stand out front and yell at people who let their dogs pee in front of the building—and when that wasn’t enough, they sprayed the block with dog repellent. “It’s about respect,” said an employee of the building. “The neighborhood is changing and we’re trying to make it positive.”
The chances of a roach daring to scuttle on Mr. Denton’s ebonized floorboards are less than nil.
But the building employee himself lived in a roach-infested apartment for years. He finally just gave up and moved.
It doesn’t take such high-maintenance, millionaire-coddling behavior to eliminate roaches. Buildings like the Clinton Hill Cooperative Apartments, a cluster of 12 buildings on the border of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, stay roach-free the old-fashioned way. “This place is great. They put slips on the doors once a week and you sign it, and get your place sprayed,” said a resident.
The Chelsea Landmark, at 25th and Sixth—one of those big horrid disaster buildings made possible by Rudy Giuliani’s rezoning of Chelsea—is home to New York’s most famous governor-serving working girl, Ashley Alexandra Dupre. Turns out even the hookers don’t have roaches anymore. (Though probably all the strippers do.)
“My girlfriend said she hasn’t seen any nor has she seen them spraying the building—we actually haven’t ever seen the super,” said someone who lives two floors below Dupre. “It’s a really, really nice place, real clean.”
Plus, everyone’s distracted. In our snuggly, post-collegiate, high-thread-count city, the cockroaches have lost their pride of place to that hot new crawly menace, the bedbug.
“Everyone is looking for the silver bullet right now for bedbugs, and we don’t have it right now,” said Mampe. “The hotel industry is scared to death.”
IT WAS ONLY four years ago that the average Manhattan apartment sale hit that magic number—a million dollars. Now it is around $1.7 million—and the median price now is not far from a million.
Between 1970 and 2005, the population of foreign-born New Yorkers—more likely to be poor—doubled, to almost three million. But fewer than 15 percent of them live in Manhattan, while about a quarter of all housing units are in Manhattan.
And the housing stock got more expensive, particularly in Manhattan. From 1994 to 2002, rent regulations were removed from more than 100,000 apartments.
Throughout the country—from California (in the Salinas Valley, a study of the homes of pregnant Latinas found that 60 percent of homes had cockroaches) to Florida (in 1986, a study of low-income apartments in the Southeast found that 97 percent were infested)—where the poor are, there are cockroaches.
Whatever could it be about poor people that makes roaches love them so? Perhaps it is the bad apartments in which they choose to live?
As of 2003, of white people in New York City who made more than $75,000 a year, only 12 percent reported seeing cockroaches. Of white folk who made less than $25,000 a year, 21 percent had roaches.