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News > Science and Tech

Housing Department Lies on Lead Inspections of New York Apartments

  • NY tenement

    NY tenement | Photo: Reuters

Published 14 November 2017

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has received charges for falsely documenting the amount of lead paint in thousands of apartments.

“DOI’s investigation found that NYCHA failed to do critical lead safety inspections and then falsely certified that they were meeting these legal requirements,” Department of Interior (DOI) Commissioner Mark Peters said in a statement.

The housing department continued to submit legal documentation of home inspections to the federal government for four years without conducting even one investigation.

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According to the report, DOI altered its requirements in 2016 and NYCHA executives overlooked the changes, claiming the inspections were up to date per the changes.

“This is the fourth time in two years that DOI has found NYCHA to be careless when it comes to tenant safety.”

“Since the Housing Authority learned it wasn’t in full compliance with lead-based paint regulations and reporting, it has taken steps to address the underlying issues. We owe our residents better, and we’ll take today’s recommendations into careful consideration,” said Jean Weinberg, spokeswoman for the department in response to the charges.

The agency advised the city consider appointing a new manager to monitor and assure inspections of the 55,000 apartments are conducted appropriately in the future.

The city outlawed residential lead paint in 1960, 18 years before a national ban. A 2004 housing law targeted “elimination” of childhood lead poisoning within six years. The city offers free lead testing in housing, vows to fix hazards and bill landlords when necessary, and has seen childhood exposure rates decline year after year.

While poisoning has nearly been eliminated in many neighborhoods, Reuters identified 69 New York City census tracts where at least 10 percent of small children screened over an 11-year period, from 2005 to 2015, had elevated lead levels.

That is twice the rate found across Flint, Michigan, during the peak of its notorious water contamination crisis in 2014 and 2015, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 5 percent of children’s tests were high.

The risk areas spanned New York neighborhoods and demographic groups. Peeling old paint is a conspicuous hazard, but reporters tracked other perils hiding in plain sight, from leaded soil and water,  dangerous toys, cosmetics and health supplements.

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