Queens’ own crime-scene cleanup crew

Death is a dirty job. No one knows that better than Ron Gospodarski, a volunteer paramedic and founder of Bio-Recovery Corp., a trauma- and crime-scene cleanup company that deals with the gruesome grime that most people never get — and usually don’t want — to see.

The 47-year-old Woodside resident started his company in 1998 after realizing there was a gaping void in the area of bio-hazard abatement. At the time, Gospodarski was working as a paramedic and as operations manager at the Queens District Attorney’s Office.

“I never knew who cleaned stuff up,” Gospodarski said, noting that emergency medical personnel and police officers often leave a crime or trauma scene even messier than it was when they arrived. Curious and concerned, the microbiologist did some research and found there was no one responsible for cleaning things up.

Seeing the opportunity to provide a much-needed service and to start his own business, the Buffalo native opened the first bio-recovery company in the New York City. His primary aim: offer help to victims and families who have suffered a loss and can’t bear to deal with cleaning up remains. Another important goal he aims to achieve is increasing awareness about the presence of companies such as his.

“I feel bad for these people,” Gospodarski said. “I really, truly do.” The city does not provide services in this area, he noted. What’s worse is that it doesn’t even inform those who need cleanup services that they have options, that companies like Bio-Recovery exist. According to Gospodarski, the Police Department and offices of the medical examiner and district attorney said it would be a “conflict of interest” to refer such companies.

Spokespeople for both the Queens District Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said crime-scene cleanup does not fall under their jurisdiction. A spokesman from the NYPD said referring businesses would be a conflict of interest. “We’re not in the business of promoting other businesses,” he said.

“Is that really caring about people?” Gospodarski asked. Without the help of city agencies, how exactly does one go about advertising death-scene cleanup services? The truth is, “Nobody wants to know about you until they need you,” Gospodarski said. “People just don’t want to deal with reality,” but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be informed, he added.

But sometimes reality is harsh. That Bio-Recovery technicians know well. They were called in to clean the aftermath of the May 2000 Wendy’s Massacre in Flushing. Five employees were killed and two were seriously wounded during a robbery planned by a former employee of the fast food restaurant and its manager.

Gospodarski, along with 65 certified bio-recovery technicians, finished the $30,000 cleanup two weeks after it began; the entire restaurant was contaminated with bio-hazardous chemicals.

Typically, cleanups range from one to three hours, utilize one to three technicians and cost between $600 and $2,000. Bio-Recovery can get up to 10 jobs some weeks, and none others, according to Gospodarski.

Bio-Recovery has cleaned everything from accident, suicide and homicide scenes, to hoarder houses, anthrax outbreaks and sewage backflows. The company specializes in the cleanup of microbial contamination and other bio-hazards.

In addition to the Wendy’s Massacre, Bio-Recovery was responsible for cleaning up after several other high-profile Queens crimes, including two in Howard Beach: the June 2005 beating of Glenn Moore by Nicholas “Fat Nick” Minucci and the February 2008 alleged murder of ex-cop Raymond Sheehan by his wife, Barbara Sheehan.

In January, Gospodarski and his crew went to clean up the bloodied Springfield Gardens home of 86-year-old Vivian Squires, who was slashed across the neck while fighting off an intruder who tried to smother her to death.

“You’re sort of like a voyeur,” Gospodarski said. “You get to see what others want to see, but don’t get to.” Crime scenes are only fascinating until they become a reality: people think they want to see the gruesome aftermath of an unbelievable crime, but once that actually becomes a possibility, they shy away from it, according to Manny Sosa, a 29-year-old technician who has worked with Bio-Recovery for nearly 10 years.

While he and his fellow technicians — all certified by the American Bio-Recovery Association — view the cleanups simply as their jobs, they fully acknowledge that they’re dealing with human life. At a recent cleanup in the Bronx, where a woman died of natural causes and was found five days later, Sosa was emptying drawers filled with contaminated clothing and other items. “You’re throwing someone’s life away,” he said as he filled a large black garbage bag. “It’s pretty sad.”

Still, overall, “We’re more pragmatic about it. We take it … for what it is,” Gospodarski said. “To us, it’s really just a job again.”

The Bio-Recovery technicians must detach themselves while they work. That way, they’re able to remain focused and judgement-free. “It doesn’t matter to us who they were, where they came from,” Sosa said. “We just do our job.” This is a job he does not talk about outside of work: “I try not to attach myself to any of this. Work is work — when I leave here, I don’t want to discuss people’s personal privacy. I’m invading people’s space just by being here,” he said.

One of the most important and difficult things about this job, according to Gospodarski, is interacting with those who hire him. “You have to build a rapport and friendship” to earn their trust, he said. Acknowledging that they’ve been through a trauma and treating them, and the victim, with respect is key.

In this job, it’s not enough to have a tough stomach: “You have to be a people person,” according to Gospodarski. “If you put the people factor first, you can’t go wrong.” Because he’s done just that, Gospodarski has earned Bio-Recovery its good reputation, he noted. And that, he said, “is more important than any dollar sign.”

According to a spokeswoman from the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New Yorkers can call 311 for information on safe clean-up or access detailed guidelines on the department’s website, nyc.gov/health.

Bio-Recovery Corp. technicians are available 24 hours a day in New York, New Jersey and Southern Connecticut and can be reached at (877) 246-2532, (718) 729-2600 or (516) 766-3366. For more information about the company, email info@biorecovery.com or visit biorecovery.com, where Gospodarski’s crime-scene cleanup blog can be accessed.

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