Working to Combat Lead Poisoning in NYC

October 5, 2018

Lead is a highly toxic metal that can have irreversible health impacts, especially on children, causing permanent injuries to their developing brains and bodies. Lead-based paint in homes and buildings is the primary cause of childhood lead poisoning in New York City.

In the past few months, we have seen a considerable amount of news bringing NYC’s lead poisoning problem into the spotlight, whether it’s contaminated school drinking water or lead-based paint in homes. Earlier in the summer, New York Comptroller Scott Stringer officially announced an investigation into the agencies responsible for covering-up the lead crisis in NYC’s public housing.

Because removing toxins from our environment is one of the top priorities in our NYC Policy Agenda, we teamed up with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and other partners to draft a report on the negative health impacts of lead poisoning in NYC and review the city’s enforcement of its lead poisoning prevention law.

In 2004, NYC enacted Local Law 1 (LL1), which created the country’s most protective measures to identify and remediate housing-based lead hazards and aimed to eliminate childhood lead poisoning by 2010. The law includes proactive lead poisoning prevention measures including mandating that landlords conduct regular inspections and abate lead paint in old apartments (built before 1960) during a vacancy.

The report found that lead paint in homes remains the primary source of lead poisoning today. Because children’s brains and bodies are very susceptible to lead poisoning, they can suffer from acute and chronic injuries caused by elevated blood lead levels such as decreased intelligence, behavioral difficulties, impaired kidney function, and cognitive dysfunction.

We also examined the prevention provisions of LL1, enforcement, and the loopholes that exist in the law. The report found that landlords are, in practice, not being held accountable for non-compliance with the law and that relevant city agencies have largely failed to enforce the primary prevention measures of LL1 since it was enacted. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) enforcement data indicates that New York City has never taken any enforcement action against a single landlord for failing to conduct the mandated annual inspections in the 14 years since the law went into effect.

Landlords are also not facing any consequences for failing to provide the required documents indicating that the buildings have been abated before new tenants move in. HPD has only issued 2 violations for the failure to comply with mandatory lead abatements at turnover.

Without meaningful enforcement and engagement with landlords, LL1 will continue to be a complaint-driven system rather than the proactive prevention law it was designed and envisioned to be.

The report also provided detailed recommendations for improving accountability. We included specific recommendations: enforcement of landlord’s annual inquiry and inspection obligations; enforcement of the requirement to eliminate certain lead hazards as soon as an apartment is vacant; safe work practices; and additional data reporting. By implementing our recommendations, the city would be able to proactively eliminate lead poisoning.

We believe that with a clear understanding of the flaws in the current law, the city will be able to strengthen the enforcement efforts of LL1, assuring compliance and transparency among landlords. We will continue to spread awareness about policies that combat lead poisoning.

< Back to Our Work

Related Articles

Paul Dibenedetto, Long Island Below is a photo of my car charging at home using the charger Ford gave with the car. It hooks up to a 120v outlet. In the summer the electric range is about 23-25 miles and in the winter, that drops to about 13-15 miles of range. Overall, the lifetime mpg…

Mayor de Blasio’s recent announcement about a commitment to school bus electrification is a monumental step towards our goal. However, there is still more work to be done in order to ensure that this commitment is upheld by the next mayor and that it is codified into law.

We are excited to publish our inaugural Annual Report so that we can provide a progress report on our advocacy, programmatic, and development goals.

Going electric is one of the best ways New Yorkers can fight climate change. As part of our public awareness campaign on electric vehicles, Plug It In, NY, we released a fact sheet on the environmental and public health benefits of EV adoption.

We convened New York City Mayoral candidates to share their views on a variety of sustainability issues in a series of taped interviews. We asked questions on issues including air quality, water quality, parks and open space, public transportation, climate adaptation, composting, and green infrastructure. View the slideshow here. Watch our video of interviews and a…

As part of our public awareness campaign on electric vehicles, Plug It In, NY, we released the second in our series of fact sheets to encourage New Yorkers to make an EV their next vehicle. Our second fact sheet covers everything there is to know about charging an EV.

Japanese Knotweed is present everywhere along the Upper Delaware River and its tributaries. Left unmanaged it continues to spread along the river and everywhere it can find suitable conditions all the while crowding out native riparian vegetation leading to habitat loss, soil erosion, and bank destabilization. Friends of the Upper Delaware River (FUDR) is undertaking…

As part of our public awareness campaign on EVs, Plug It In, NY, we released the first of a series of fact sheets to encourage New Yorkers to make an EV their next vehicle. This first fact sheet dispels myths about charging range which many associate with EVs, known as range anxiety.

We are committed to educating, engaging, and empowering New Yorkers to be effective advocates for the environment. One of our top priorities is reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, New York’s largest source of emissions. Given that there are nearly 11.5 million vehicles registered in NYS, getting individual New Yorkers to make the…

Get Involved