From the moment Bernadette Ferrara spotted a shabby looking lot lined with used mattresses outside a building, she knew something was off.
A “trap, neuter and return” specialist for stray cats, Ferrara was at work at the dead-end block of Van Buren Street in Van Nest that evening when she spotted a white panel truck unloading some worn-out box springs.
A two-man crew uprighted the bare beds at the lot, then writing a price and a letter of the alphabet on each mattress.
Ferrara observed the practice for weeks while engaged in her cat-trapping work.
“I noticed early in the morning and late at night these crews came back with all these mattresses,” said Ferrara, vice president of the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance.
One neighbor, who asked not to be identified, told the Bronx Times Reporter the beds at Van Buren are not sterilized in a proper environment.
“They’re washing them right in a dirty lot. It’s filthy there,” said the neighbor, adding the beds are exposed to the air without any plastic covers.
The bed cleaners usually re-sell the mattresses to used furniture suppliers, mandated to put a used tag on the beds.
Why the company is operational is a mystery to her.
It’s an even biggery mystery to city and state agencies, now investigating SM Bedding Inc.
The state Department of State, responsible for licensing refurbished mattress firms, is examining why the company has flown under the radar since dissolving in 2006.
Responding to a recent 311 complaint, the city Buildings Department is also questioning why the company is even operating its business at the three-story building, considered illegal space for a business.
Building records show Jean Claude Limited Holdings Corporation as the owner, which also rents the space to Appliance Pros, a furniture repair company unrelated to SM Bedding.
The Church of Pentecost USA, a nonprofit operates a floor above the shadowy firm.
Members with the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance brought up their concern at their latest meeting, especially over the dozens of mattresses as breeding grounds for disease or even bedbugs.
But officers with the 49th Precinct referred them to the city Department of Consumer Affairs. A spokeswoman there confirmed the company has no secondhand dealer license, a requirement for any company selling used furnishings in the city.
As for the beds posing a health risk, a city Health Department spokeswoman confirmed the issue falls within the jurisdiction of State Department and city Consumer Affairs.
Bed recycling is a legal practice in New York State, according to Department of State spokesman Benitez Laz.
“There is indeed a market for used bedding,” said Laz, adding the beds are subject to major regulations.
For instance, used mattress firms must first sanitize their product with a state Health Department-approved chemical to knock out germs an/or insects festering inside the beds, which can also have its covers replaced.
SM Bedding has an unlisted number, adding another frustration to Ferrara, who’s demanding answers.
“What happens if there’s something else going on that we’re not sure of?” she asked.
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383