Attorney General James Protects NYC Children from Lead Poisoning in Housing

September 17, 2021

Attorney General’s Press Office/212-416-8060

AG’s Investigation Found Major Landlord Lacked Compliance with New York City Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act

A&E Will Pay $510,000 to Fund OAG Programs that Help Protect Children from Lead Poisoning

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James announced today that her office has reached an agreement with a major New York City landlord to ensure that children living in its apartments are protected from dangerous lead-based paint. The agreement resolves the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) investigation into A&E Real Estate Holdings (A&E), which found that A&E was not in compliance with apartment inspection, lead hazard remediation, and other key requirements of New York City’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act.

As a part of today’s agreement, A&E will continue to bring its apartments into compliance with the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, and will report its compliance to the OAG for the next three years. A&E will also pay $510,000 to the OAG for initiatives aimed at protecting children from lead poisoning. This is the first agreement resulting from investigations that the OAG is conducting into New York City apartment building owner and operators’ compliance with the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act.

“The legacy of lead paint in housing continues to be an enduring threat to the health and future of our youngest New Yorkers,” said Attorney General James. “Children have the right to live in healthy, hazard-free environments, and their landlords have an obligation to ensure that happens. The health and safety of our children is paramount, and through today’s action, we will continue to ensure that they are always our priority.”

Lead is a highly toxic metal that can cause serious and irreversible adverse health effects. Children who have been exposed to even very low levels of lead are at risk for neurological and physical problems during critical stages of early development. In fact, no safe lead level in children has been identified. Children under six are more likely to be exposed to lead than any other age group, as their normal behaviors could result in them chewing lead paint chips; breathing in or swallowing dust from old lead paint that gets on floors, window sills, and hands; and can be found in soil, toys, and other consumer products. Lead poisoning in New York City is highest among children of color and children living in high-poverty neighborhoods.

Lead paint in residential housing has been a pervasive problem for decades, particularly in New York. Beginning in the 20th century, paint with dangerously high levels of lead was used on both exterior and interior surfaces of housing in the United States. Lead paint has been found in approximately 43 percent of all of New York dwellings. In 1960, New York City prohibited the sale of paint with high levels of lead for residential use, New York state imposed a state-wide ban in 1970, and the federal government banned lead in paint in 1978. The vast majority of older, painted buildings contain some paint with lead levels higher than these bans. The New York City Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act requires owners of apartments and houses built before 1960 to take critical safety measures to prevent lead poisoning in children tenants.

A&E owns and manages more than 10,000 apartments in buildings throughout New York City, most of which are located in Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. The OAG’s investigation into A&E, beginning in 2018, determined that A&E violated several provisions of the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act related to notice requirements, annual inquiries, and turnover procedures. Specifically, A&E:

  • Did not ensure that tenants filled out the lease notice indicating whether children under the age of six would live in the apartment and did not ensure that it recorded that information;
  • Did not do the required follow-up when tenants did not respond to annual notices regarding whether children under the age of six lived in an apartment;
  • Did not confirm that it performed annual lead paint hazard investigations of all apartments where lease notices or annual notices indicated a child under the age of six lived;
  • Did not investigate for hazards beyond peeling lead paint prior to 2019;
  • Informed tenants of the results of annual investigations only when it discovered lead paint hazards and addressed work orders; and
  • Could not confirm that it complied with the requirements imposed by the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act when an apartment was vacated and it did not certify in new leases that it had done so.

A&E’s non-compliance resulted in the potential exposure to lead-based paint hazards, particularly for children under the age of six.

The agreement reached today requires A&E to achieve and maintain full compliance with all requirements of the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, including taking actions to resolve lead-based paint violations open with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). A&E also agreed to take several measures beyond the requirements of the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, including reporting directly to the OAG regularly on its compliance with the Act for the next three years, and paying $510,000 to the OAG to fund projects that help protect children from lead poisoning. Any future violation of the law by A&E violates the agreement and could subject the company to legal action by the OAG.

Attorney General James thanks HPD for its assistance in this and other, related ongoing investigations.

“HPD is committed to meeting the goals of LeadFreeNYC, keeping children safe from lead through enhanced enforcement against property owners who fail to meet their obligations and through education and resources for tenants and property owners,” said HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll. “We will continue to pursue enforcement through our own litigation and in joint efforts with partners like the attorney general, who utilize the work of our inspectors and lead-based paint enforcement teams to identify and audit buildings where lead-based paint regulations are not followed. I hope this settlement serves to let all property owners know how seriously HPD and the attorney general take lead-based paint compliance and encourages them to find out more about how to properly comply.”

“The dangers of exposure to even trace amounts of lead has serious implications on the development and well-being of our city’s young children — this is well documented and beyond dispute,” said New York City Council Health Committee Chair Mark Levine. “As a city, we made a promise that we would eliminate lead poisoning in children by 2010 when we passed the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, but have yet to live up to that promise. Attorney General James’ work to hold big landlords accountable and ensure that our lead laws are consistently being enforced is a big step forward in our battle against lead poisoning. This is the only way we will reach our goal of finally protecting, once and for all, our children from this entirely preventable but detrimental hazard.”

“As a health and environmental advocate, I was a sponsor of the NYC Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act. It's a great law, but any law is only as good as the enforcement it receives," said New York City Council Environmental Protection Chair James F. Gennaro. “I applaud Attorney General Letitia James for all her hard work to vigorously enforce this law and for creating a fund for the proceeds of fines for violating this law to go towards OAG programs to protect our children from lead poisoning and keeping New York City kids safe. All parents in our city owe Attorney General James a debt of gratitude.”

“The degree to which bad actors are still, in 2021, endangering children and families by not complying with the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act is shocking. In the City Council, we have passed several pieces of legislation to strengthen the lead monitoring and remediation requirements in Local Law 1, including my bill Int. 904 which ensures the City conducts thorough investigations when pregnant mothers test positive for lead exposure,” said City Council Member Carlina Rivera. “I am grateful to Attorney General James and her office for their leadership in investigating A&E Real Estate Holdings' lack of compliance. I look forward to seeing justice won for these, and all other affected families citywide.”

“I commend Attorney General James for her diligence in uncovering significant lack of compliance with New York City’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act and for this substantial agreement with A&E,” said City Council Member Stephen Levin. “Childhood lead poisoning has been a scourge to New York City children for far too long. Attorney General James has fought for childhood victims of lead poisoning since her time at the New York City Council and this agreement today will add meaningful funding to that effort statewide.”

“I applaud the efforts of the Attorney General’s office and Letitia James for continuing to advocate and work to protect children in New York,” said City Council Member Oswald Feliz. “As a tenant attorney I know firsthand the difficulties in litigating cases against landlords when it comes to lead paint violations, and dealing with the after effects that lead paint has on the health and wellbeing of our children. This especially occurs in communities of color, such as my own, which are often neglected. This agreement will send a message to all landlords in the state, directing them to comply with their obligations when it comes to lead paint inspections and reporting to ensure that our children are not coming into contact with lead paint and experiencing poor health conditions later on as a result.”

“The effects that lead can have on young children cannot be overstated. We should be relentless in preventing lead poisoning, and I applaud Attorney General James for her investigation which will hold this mega-landlord accountable to New York's stringent health standards,” said City Council Member Margaret Chin. “As council member, I have passed multiple pieces of legislation to curb lead exposure, including laws mandating the Department of Buildings work with the Department of Health to swab for lead dust at construction sites in residential buildings, and requiring the Department of Education to regularly inspect classrooms for lead. We must continue to pursue any party in violation of the New York City's Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act so that no child or family must suffer the irreversible harm inflicted by exposure to heavy metals.”

“We applaud New York Attorney General Letitia James for taking on criminally negligent landlords who ignore laws designed to protect children from toxic lead poisoning which causes irreversible damage to mental and physical health,” said Sonal Jessel, policy director, WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “Lead poisoning is completely preventable, and the city has plenty of laws on the books but they are rarely enforced. This is extremely troubling for Black/African American communities because we know from national studies that Black children living below the poverty line are twice as likely to suffer from lead poisoning as poor white children. New York City has a major child lead poisoning problem, with a rate of 11.2 per 1,000 children living in private housing having elevated blood lead levels. We are glad to see Attorney General James is serious about enforcing our laws.”

“The goal of New York City’s landmark Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Law was to end this wholly preventable epidemic by 2010,” said Matthew Chachère, attorney, Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation. “Sadly, that has yet to happen, in large part due to the failure of too many landlords to comply with their obligation to maintain their apartments free of lead-based paint hazards. New York City’s children are well served by the Attorney General’s efforts to secure compliance with this important public health measure.”

Attorney General James is continuing to pursue legal actions across New York to end the scourge of childhood lead poisoning by holding accountable landlords that allow lead paint-related hazards to proliferate in low-income rental properties. In September 2020, she sued a group of Buffalo individuals and companies for repeated violations of county, city, state, and federal laws by illegally allowing lead paint-related hazards to proliferate in their rental properties. In February 2020, Attorney General James sued Chestnut Holdings of New York, Inc. for failing to comply with provisions of New York City’s lead poisoning prevention law.

This matter is being handled by Special Counsel of the Health Care Bureau Sara Haviva Mark, Assistant Attorney General Abigail Katowitz, Chief Scientist Jodi Feld, and all of the Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Environmental Protection Deputy Bureau Chief Monica Wagner. The Environmental Protection Bureau is led by Lemuel M. Srolovic. Data analysis was handled by Senior Data Analyst Akram Hasanov, under the supervision of Research and Analytics Department Directior Jonathan Werberg and Deputy Director Megan Thorsfeldt. The Environmental Protection Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and is overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.