Elected officials have long complained of the flaking paint on the 7 train’s tracks along Roosevelt Boulevard. This week, a group of business owners and residents filed a class-action lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority after the paint was found to contain high levels of lead.
State Sen. Jose Peralta has introduced a bill that would force the MTA to conduct a study to determine whether the agency is in compliance with the federal Clean Air Act, while Councilman Danny Dromm has called on the city to paint over the elevated tracks. A spokesman for the MTA said that the agency undertakes annual joint inspections with the city’s Environmental Protection Agency that include the disposal of paint chips in accordance with environmental regulations.
However, the District 9 International Union of Painters and Allied Trades took samples from the paint in February and found that it contained more than 40 times the legal threshold of lead. Local leaders have rightly called the situation a “health crisis,” considering that Roosevelt Avenue is a heavily populated area and a number of children rely on the 7 line to get to school.
It is understandable—and often expected—that city upgrades take time to materialize. But in this case, the situation appears to be more urgent.
Residents of Jackson Heights and Corona should be able to walk along the Roosevelt Avenue commercial strip, and children should be able to travel to and from school, without fear of being exposed to potentially toxic materials. The MTA should act quickly to determine which sections of the elevated tracks are covered in paint that exceeds safe levels and add new coats to the structures with paint that meets city environmental standards. Doing anything less than this would be negligent.