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Lead in New York’s Public Housing Downplayed, Records Reveal

By Thomas P. Giuffra

What many have believed has now been confirmed by public records.  NYC officials have minimized the presence and danger of lead paint in the city’s public housing facilities.

“The evidence confirms what we’ve long suspected — that the de Blasio administration, the Health Department and the Housing Authority all systematically misled the public about the true extent of lead poisoning in public housing,” City Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-The Bronx), who grew up in NYCHA housing and chairs the body’s oversight committee, told The Post.

Our First-Hand Experience with NYCHA and Lead Poisoning

I am all too familiar with this issue since I successfully represented a young girl and her family that suffered terrible, life-altering injuries from lead paint in their apartment run by the Housing Authority.  Before we filed a lawsuit, the family tried to resolve the issue by contacting the NY Housing Authority but their every attempt was rebuffed. 

According to the NY Post, “Newly surfaced documents reveal damning details about the scale and scope of what NYCHA knew of its serious lead issues in housing units with kids — all while Mayor Bill de Blasio downplayed the health crisis.

Findings from Public Records

Local Health Department inspectors found lead in 222 NYCHA apartments across 93 developments — more than a quarter of all complexes citywide — between 2010 and 2018, according to records that City Hall only produced after The Post sued it under the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

Experts have said there is a high likelihood of finding lead in other apartments in a building where it has already been discovered.

Yet NYCHA was able to avoid making any repairs to 158 of the 222 lead-tainted apartments thanks to appeals to the city DOH, the documents show.

Among the 93 NYCHA developments where inspectors found lead after a child’s poisoning is the sprawling Jacob Riis Houses complex on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

According to the documents, city Health Department inspectors ordered the clean-up of 10 apartments in The Bronx’s Patterson Houses over the eight-year period, the highest number for any public-housing development.

The Van Dyke Houses in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood were slapped with orders to clean up eight apartments after a child tested positive for dangerous levels of lead.

The Bronx’s Edenwald Houses and Harlem’s Lincoln Houses each received six clean-up orders after a case of lead poisoning.

Experts say the numbers suggest this is only the tip of the iceberg.

A Matter of Life and Death

According to the federal agency Housing and Urban Development, the presence of lead in paint may lead to fatal health issues.  “Lead is a highly toxic metal that may cause a range of health problems, especially in young children. When lead is absorbed into the body, it can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs, like the kidneys, nerves and blood.

Lead may also cause behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures and in extreme cases, death. Some symptoms of lead poisoning may include headaches, stomachaches, nausea, tiredness and irritability. Children who are lead poisoned may show no symptoms.

Both inside and outside the home, deteriorated lead paint mixes with household dust and soil and becomes tracked in. Children may become lead poisoned by:

  • Putting their hands or other lead-contaminated objects into their mouths,
  • Eating paint chips found in homes with peeling or flaking lead-based paint, or
  • Playing in lead-contaminated soil

If your residence was built before 1978, lead may be an issue for your family.  If you or a loved one have been injured by lead poisoning in New York City and you reside in a building administered by the City Housing Authority, please call me for a free initial consultation

Picture of Thomas P. Giuffra, Partner

Thomas P. Giuffra, Partner

Thomas specializes in the litigation and trial of significant civil sexual assault, medical malpractice, personal injury, mass tort, and product liability actions. His innovative approach has led to 20 verdicts and numerous settlements in excess of one million dollars on behalf of his clients, including a recent landmark verdict for $58 Million. He has been recognized as "outstanding in the field of advocacy" nationally and internationally.

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