Lawmakers rebuke NYCHA over lead, other problems

- After New York City revealed that more than 800 children living in public housing have elevated levels of lead in their blood, the state Health Department is now declaring a public health emergency for NYCHA.

"There are children who have been exposed to lead paint whose lives will never be the same again because of the failures on the part of the New York City Housing Authority, the Department of Health and the de Blasio administration," Councilman Ritchie Torres said.

Torres will soon propose legislation that he hopes will improve lead safety and also prevent the city from trying to cover up lead cases.

The city announced a new initiative to conduct environmental investigations for all children with a blood-lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter or higher. But Torres said that is not good enough.

"There's no such thing as a safe amount of lead exposure. And so the moment the city finds out that your child has any lead in his or her blood, those parents should receive notification directly from the city."

Mayor de Blasio's office said it will review the legislation when it is introduced. It also said the city is now offering free testing and home inspections.

But lead isn't the only problem. Dorothy Carter, 79, watched her bathroom ceiling cave in this January. She said NYCHA workers responded quickly but only placed a board to cover the hole.

"They never came back and I had to put the ticket in two or three times. I still got an outstanding ticket," Carter said. "It makes me feel sad because if you pay your rent, pay it on time like I do, you shouldn't have to live like this."

Crumbling ceilings are among a multitude of issues at the Park East Houses in Harlem. U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer visited that and several other NYCHA buildings on Tuesday. Their goal was to note specific issues at each complex so that funding can be spent wisely.

Torres is just starting to draft the legislation. He said he plans to introduce his bills to the City Council in the coming months.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has defended his administration and said that lead poisoning is down in the city almost 90 percent since 2005.

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