Health commissioner pushes back at NYCHA–Flint comparison

About half a million people live in New York City Housing Authority-managed buildings. Now because of possible lead paint exposure, some local lawmakers are calling it "The New Flint." But the New York City Health Department strongly disagrees.

State Sen. Jesse Hamilton said some residents in the Brownville section of Brooklyn told his office that no one from NYCHA has inspected their homes for lead paint and that "lead paint chips are falling like snowflakes."

That could be changing with the release of a new report on NYCHA lead paint issues. NYCHA residents number more than four times the population of the Michigan city where lead tainted the water system.

Concerns are growing about lead paint health risks in New York City public housing. Democratic lawmakers issued the results of their survey of NYCHA conditions. Sen. Jeff Klein and other local Democratic elected officials are pushing for new laws, calling for greater oversight of NYCHA, including a state monitor, City Council oversight, and requiring 311 to accept NYCHA complaints.

"The state is currently examining the best way to address the reprehensible conditions at NYCHA, and we will review the legislation in that context," a spokesperson For Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.  

Fox 5 asked NYCHA about some of the proposed new measures. Dr. Mary Bassett, the city's health commissioner, responded with a statement.

"These officials are playing politics with public health. Comparing New York—a national success story in reducing lead exposure—to Flint is alarmist and wrong," Bassett said. "Exposure rates among children in New York City has fallen 87 percent since 2005, and they are even lower among kids in public housing."

City Council Member Ritchie Torres said this is time for sweeping changes. He called the city's approach to managing public housing "insanity."

Klein said he is planning a vote on the law for a NYCHA state monitor next week.

But a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration said NYCHA already has oversight from the federal government.