BY LYNN EDMONDS
The New York City Housing Authority is dragging its feet when it comes to lead abatement, potentially endangering young children, Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) said on Monday.
Lead paint is particularly dangerous for children under the age of six, both because their bodies are more sensitive to it and because they are more likely to ingest it.
A total of 201 children, living in 121 different NYCHA units, tested positive for elevated lead levels between 2010 and 2015.
There may be more than 10,000 public housing units across the city that contain lead paint and house a child under the age of six, a Daily News article reported in June.
NYCHA housing isn’t necessarily more dangerous than other housing when it comes to exposure to lead. About three percent of childhood lead poisoning cases are associated with NYCHA housing, whereas about five percent of the City’s population lives in NYCHA housing.
But the City’s biggest landlord – like every other landlord – does have a legal obligation to act whenever there is lead in a unit occupied by a child under the age of six.
Yet Lancman said that in cases where children lived in pre-1960 housing and tested positive for elevated lead levels, NYCHA insisted on obtaining more proof before moving forward with lead abatement.
That was the case for Monica Corbett, President of the Pomonok Residents Association. Her son tested positive for high lead levels several years ago. Unsure of the source of the lead poisoning, and unwilling to wait for NYCHA to investigate while her son was in a critical developmental phase, Corbett paid for lead abatement out of her own pocket.
The agency claims their use of lead paint was always sparing, even pre-1960, mainly because lead-based paint was more expensive.
But Lancman said the agency was failing to take action in 43 units where DOH found lead.
“NYCHA denied the existence of harmful lead paint in apartments where children tested positive for lead poisoning, even after the city’s Department of Health found chipping, peeling or otherwise ingestible lead paint in the apartments,” a press release from Lancman, who organized the press conference, said.
NYCHA countered that they were on the same page with the DOH now.
But Lancman isn’t the only one concerned. U.S. Rep Grace Meng (D-Flushing), State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) and Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Kew Gardens Hills) spoke out at the conference.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is also conducting an investigation into lead issues and other unsafe conditions in NYCHA housing. The DOH must investigate cases of elevated blood lead levels of public housing residents as part of the investigation.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana