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New York has gone 14 years without a single enforcement action on private lead inspection law

September 27, 2018 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
More than 61,000 children in New York have shown elevated blood lead levels in the past eight years as landlords continue to be negligent in eliminating lead paint hazards, according to a new report from a coalition of environmental and housing groups. Matt Campbell/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism via AP
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New York City’s regulators have not taken a single enforcement action against any landlord for failing to conduct annual lead inspections in the 14 years since the city passed an ambitious lead poisoning prevention law in 2004, according to a new report on children’s lead poisoning by a coalition of environmental and housing groups. 

Local Law 1 aimed to end lead poisoning in New York City by 2010, but more than 61,000 children under six have had elevated blood lead levels since 2010, according to the report, which contains multiple specific examples of New York failing to take enforcement action against negligent landlords. According to the most recent Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) data, 97 percent of the children found to be lead poisoned since the beginning of 2010 resided in private dwellings.

The groups examined data on violations and enforcement actions from the DOHMH and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), which shows that HPD is failing to enforce the primary prevention measures of Local Law 1, whose goal was to make landlords responsible for proactively finding and abating lead paint hazards before children became lead poisoned, and to eventually remove all lead paint hazards from private rental dwellings throughout the city. 

Lead in children’s bloodstreams at any level can lead irreversibly to effects such as decreased intelligence, behavioral difficulties, and learning problems. Still, city agencies have placed families with young children into apartments contaminated with lead paint that should have been abated before the families moved in if landlords were complying with the law, the report shows.  

“We frequently work with tenants who have been exposed to lead levels well above the legal threshold, especially in cases where their landlord is doing luxury rehabilitation work in pre-1960 buildings,” said Liam Reilly, with the Cooper Square Committee. “When the safe work practices outlined in Local Law 1 of 2004 are not enforced, tenants in gentrifying neighborhoods who have decided to stay and fight for their homes can be subjected to toxic levels of lead dust. Aggressive landlords understand the threat that these disruptive renovations bring and often ignore the safe work practices in it in an attempt to potentially push out the remaining rent regulated tenants from the buildings.” 


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