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The Best Mold Experts in New York

Photo-Illustration: Curbed

For Selling a House

Testor Environmental Services,

When realtor Heather McMaster is working on a deal and her client suspects potential mold infestation, she always recommends they call Testor. Some inspectors are difficult to schedule quickly, she says, which can hold up a sale — but Testor understands the urgency. “They are really, really responsive,” McMaster says. “When you’re selling a house, usually this stuff needs to be done like yesterday. The buyers and sellers want to get the show on the road.” Testor’s director of operations, Jennifer Marik, was a stage manager for a literal show, Broadway’s Wicked, for 15 years, and McMaster credits her with the company’s efficiency. “A stage manager is the most organized human being you’ll ever meet in your entire life,” she says. In contrast to the many Luddite inspectors around the city, Testor makes its inspection reports available online so they can be easily forwarded to attorneys or insurance companies. McMaster also likes that its research goes far beyond the immediate mold problem: “Water is such a bizarre thing. They’ll talk with management and with the super to really try to find where the root of the problem is so the remediator knows exactly what needs to be done.”

For the Biggest Jobs

First Onsite,

Bill Sothern, founder of the mold-inspection firm Microecologies, has done thousands of inspections since 1993 — including for Bianca Jagger, providing evidence during her famous $20 million lawsuit alleging that her 530 Park Avenue landlord had failed to properly rid her apartment of several kinds of mold. When Sothern finds enough mold to constitute a “big job” — a three-to-four person crew, more than a week of work — he recommends his clients call First Onsite to eradicate it. Many remediation companies don’t have a large enough staff to handle “jobs that will cost $100,000 or more,” such as when water cascades from floor to floor in an apartment building, but First Onsite has 112 staffers on its northeast regional team. Sothern has referred clients hundreds of times and says it has handled each case deftly. In one multimillion-dollar Upper East Side apartment, he says, First Onsite removed the subflooring as planned only to discover that the underlying structure would need antifungal encapsulant paint. Other companies, Sothern says, wouldn’t have had as shrewd an understanding of building construction and might not have known the right way to proceed. First Onsite did. “They do the job right the first time.”

For Cleaning the HVAC System

Indoor Remediation Services,

During the pandemic, spores grew in the HVAC system at the Senior Nutrition Program of the East Harlem Council for Human Services — a big problem for the local seniors who go there for free lunch and activities. (Mold in an HVAC system can cause respiratory issues for anyone in a building, no matter how far they are from the ducts.) As a city-funded organization, the program is required to get quotes from three companies, and according to program director Wendy Martinez, Indoor Remediation Services’ proposal was by far the best (so thorough it was “like a book,” she says). The company happens to specialize in HVAC cleaning, including decontaminating moldy air handlers, air conditioners, and duct systems. (It’s also adept when it comes to small projects — it will just as happily take on regular remediation jobs in studio apartments.) Owner Gustavo Lezama came in and promptly got to work, clearing debris from the basement and cleaning the pantry air handler and ducts. Although the building has an extensive ventilation system, the whole job took only half a morning and services were not disrupted. “His guys were ready to go — they came in quick and on time.” says Martinez. And the place felt so thoroughly clean afterward that Martinez says she wanted to hire Indoor Remediation to come to her house, too. “You could just immediately smell the difference.”

For No Damage

American Fire Restoration,

“The issue I have with the big mold-remediation companies is that they tend to have a kind of ‘It doesn’t really matter the damage’ attitude toward it,” says James Mansfield, the CEO and founder of luxury firm West Village General Contracting. “They don’t look at places as actually somebody’s home — they just see the mold. So they go in there and start ripping everything out without thinking about taking it out carefully so everything can be put back in its place. We’ve seen companies just start ripping up walls with a metaphorical chain saw.” This, he says, can make everything substantially more expensive. “When companies aren’t careful, you can easily turn a $150,000 claim into a $750,000 claim.” This is why he now uses American Fire Restoration, a small, family-owned remediator that follows what Mansfield calls “the contractor’s Hippocratic oath: First, do no harm.” The company’s careful approach leaves apartments as close as possible to their original state. Recently, its team carefully extracted mold from a Mercer Street triplex whose building water tower had leaked, leaving extensive damage. Mansfield says a less-delicate remediation company might have resulted in triple the recovery cost.

For an Inspector With an Acute Sense of Smell

Certified Mold Inspections,

When Birds & Bubbles, Sarah Simmons’s Lower East Side chicken-and-Champagne restaurant, flooded an unthinkable nine times in 2016 and 2017 (allegedly owing to contractor negligence), she called Certified Mold Inspections’ Colby Levy. It was “the most stressful time of my entire life,” Simmons says, yet she remembers her experiences with Levy and the company very fondly. He was “super-clear about what needed to be done to reopen” and very helpful with Simmons’s insurance claims — even meeting with the auditor himself. He took a ton of samples and knew immediately from his acute sense of smell to test places that didn’t appear to be affected at first, such as when he discovered the fans in other rooms had been pulling in mold spores and were ruined. In addition, Levy taught Simmons so much about air contaminants, ventilation, and how particles move through a space that when covid arrived, she shut down her restaurant well before the closure orders came.

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