Andy Malone was once one of the most prominent members of the Democratic Party in New York State, yet he recently found himself unable to attend church because he didn’t have a suit or a pair of shoes that matched.
The shortfall was not poverty driven: Malone is known to be debonair dresser and always wears his Sunday best to services at the Calvary Baptist Church.
That is, until everything he owned was thrown away because his apartment at the Windmill II Affordable Housing complex was infested with bed bugs. Among his belongings was a jigsaw puzzle put together by Willem de Kooning’s daughter and signed by the artist himself.
Malone said it took a month before the problem was adequately addressed, and it not only cost him his wardrobe and other belongings but his health and his dignity.
“You should see his legs . . . he’s been eaten raw,” said a friend who accompanied Malone to The Independent on Thursday, November 1.
Part of the problem, said residents, was the tepid, unprofessional response to the problem in the days after the infestation, which was apparently limited to the five or so apartments in Building Six.
Not true, said Gerry Mooney, a manager at the complex. “Andy gets inspected every year . . . the whole place does. Malone’s apartment had a significant bed bug infestation.”
Two people with first-hand knowledge of what occurred next said Windmill managers sent in untrained workers — “friends and cousins” of the staff maintenance crew to deal with the bugs. “They showed up with painter’s masks and began bagging up his belongings,” one resident said.
Mooney said Windmill hired a professional exterminator, Premier. “They said it was one of the worst cases they have ever seen,” he said.
Along with Linda Norris from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Arthur Burns from Suffolk County Protective Services, Malone was clearly made aware of what was to follow.
“We told him everything had to go,” said Michelle Rothman, a social worker employed by Windmill. She said Malone was on board with the cleanup and the fact he would temporarily be put out.
“They threw my stuff away and left my bed turned upside down. Soon I started noticing little red splotches on the rug,” Malone related.
Mooney said Malone was given a temporary bed. “The new one is supposed to be delivered today,” he said on Monday, November 5.
“They were going to send Andy back in three hours after spraying,” recalled a friend, Rona Klopman. “I said, ‘Are you nuts?’”
Everything else in the apartment was taken for “safekeeping” — even pictures off the walls. The de Kooning was valued at over $25,000, Malone said. He’s never seen it again, and he believes it was stolen. He was in the process of filing a police report, as of Monday. “I never hear of it,” Mooney said. I’ve never seen it.” Mooney said Malone never told anyone about it, “because it’s very expensive.”
Premier told the Windmill officials about the extent of the problem. Malone and the other tenants were told not to return to their apartments but no temporary housing was suggested or offered. Malone said his car was deemed off limits as well. Mooney said the Lutheran church chipped in $5000 while they waited for a stipend from Suffolk County to buy furniture and clothes for Malone.
He was given one pair of mismatched shoes after he complained he had nothing to wear on his feet, he said. Malone didn’t even have underwear — a Windmill staffer brought him a pack. Mooney took Malone to the LVIS Thrift Shop to buy a suit. Klopman was there. “Gerry made a big deal of it. He made sure people knew he was doing it. Andy got a jacket, two shirts, and one pair of underwear,” she said. Malone was walking around with the price tag on it — $40. “I cut it off. I told him he didn’t have to keep it on there,” Klopman related.
The whole thing was humiliating to a man who was once one of the most prominent Democrats in the state; he was one of the only black men from Long Island to be selected to represent Suffolk County at the National Democratic Convention. He also served as a delegate for George McGovern at the 1972 Democratic Primary in Miami. He’s been a local party committeeman ever since.
Still, Klopman said a lot of the residents of Windmill and St. Michaels speak highly of the living conditions. “I hear a lot of stories.”
“We have a good staff here. I’ve known Andy for 30 years,” Mooney added. “You develop relationships. But when they fail inspection, they become disgruntled. Mostly, it’s a friendly atmosphere.