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Mayor de Blasio Kicks Off Lead-Based Paint Testing at 135,000 NYCHA Apartments

April 15, 2019

Part of Mayor’s LeadFreeNYC Plan to eliminate childhood lead exposure

NEW YORK —Mayor Bill de Blasio today kicked off NYCHA’s new lead-based paint testing program. For the first time ever, 135,000 apartments will be tested with a portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzers. Surpassing local and federal requirements, this effort will determine the presence of lead paint and abate any hazards found in these units. These 135,000 units were built before 1978, when lead paint was banned at the federal level. Testing will be completed by the end of 2020.

“New York City has driven down the number of kids exposed to lead by 90 percent, and now we will finish the mission,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.  “For the first time ever, we’re going into 135,000 NYCHA apartments to eradicate lead exposure. This aggressive new testing plan will help make New York the healthiest and fairest big city in America.”

“Today, we begin to aggressively tackle lead-based paint inspections for our residents and their children,” said NYCHA Interim Chair and CEO Kathryn Garcia. “We will continue to accelerate lead testing to ensure NYCHA is lead free and our residents are safe from lead-based hazards in their homes.”

NYCHA will then prioritize developments with the highest population of children under the age of 6, which is the age recognized in the City’s law requiring landlords to conduct regular lead-based paint visual assessments. Testing begins at Harlem River Houses on April 15 and the other seven developments will start on May 1.The first tranche of development to be tested are:

  • Williamsburg Houses
  • Harlem River Houses
  • Bronx River Houses
  • Saint Nicholas Houses
  • Johnson Houses
  • Red Hook West Houses
  • Castle Hill Houses
  • Marble Hill Houses

The remaining developments will be announced in the coming months. In addition to ensuring individual residents are receiving clear and rapid communication about results for their own
apartments once inspected, NYCHA will report its testing results online by May 1st and will update this information every two weeks.

In July 2018, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new undertaking for the City and NYCHA to fully test for the presence of lead-based paint in public housing apartments. Released in December 2018, the Request for Proposal (RFP) sought the use of portable XRF testing.  In February 2019, NYCHA announced the selection of seven contractors to conduct the lead-based paint inspection services. The $88 million contract was awarded to Airtek Environmental, Arc Environmental, ATC Group, JLC Environmental, Lew Corporation, The ALC Group, and TRC Environmental. The contractors are expected to inspect approximately 5,000 to 7,000 apartments each month.

Beyond the testing, the scope of the contracts includes identifying hazardous conditions detrimental to residents’ health and safety. As part of the testing, the contractors will also perform the HUD annually required visual assessments for all apartments built prior to 1978 that have not been previously cleared of lead-based paint. NYCHA will correct any paint deficiencies observed during the visual assessments.

This testing initiative is part of LeadFreeNYC, the City’s roadmap to eradicate childhood lead exposure. LeadFreeNYC’s approach is twofold: prevent exposure to lead hazards in the first place, and respond quickly and comprehensively if a child has an elevated blood lead level. To protect New York City kids, the City will increase resources and support for children, parents, and healthcare providers.

"It is great to know NYCHA residents will soon have their apartments tested for lead through portable technology that will allow maintenance workers to yield quick results. Generally, results through regular testing can take 6 to 8 weeks. Families and children throughout the City have suffered long enough from lead poisoning, with some children experiencing permanent defects. While oversight on protection from lead was long over do, I am  pleased to hear that more residents will have their apartment tested because expediting the process to combat lead poisoning must be a top priority for the city," said Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, Chair of the Committee on Public Housing.

"Lead paint testing is long overdue. I am pleased that the Mayor is directing the testing of Red Hook apartments for this health hazard.  Our NYCHA residents deserve to have decent homes and buildings. This is one step in our effort to ensure quality housing," said Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz.

Senator Roxanne J. Persaud said, "I am pleased that this advanced lead testing is beginning. We must ensure all NYCHA buildings are in compliance with federal regulations and remove the health risks that pose threat to families, especially those with young children, living in untreated or untested apartments. New Yorkers living in NYCHA housing deserve homes that are safe, clean and healthy; this is one step in assuring this is happening."

“I am relieved that over 135,000 NYCHA apartments will finally undergo lead testing and that this initiative will include East Harlem’s Johnson Houses. Our communities deserve healthy and safe housing- this initiative takes action to remedy the lead crisis and is a step in the right direction,” said Assembly Member Robert Rodriguez.

“I’m truly glad to see that NYCHA has raised the bar on their level of efficiency to address the lead crisis. This approach is long overdue. Our children’s health and wellness is a priority and this a step in the right direction to eradicate lead in NYCHA developments,” said Assembly Member Latrice Walker.

“X-ray fluorescence technology is an aggressive tool that will allow NYCHA to test 135,000 apartments citywide and help keep families safe from lead hazards in their homes. I thank Mayor de Blasio and Interim Chair Garcia for activating this effort and prioritizing NYCHA families,” said Council Member Diana Ayala.

“The new ‘vision zero’ approach and XRF testing are positive steps to ensure good health and lead-free homes for thousands of NYCHA residents,” said Council Member Andy King. “The goal is to make our NYCHA apartments totally lead-free and I commend Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYCHA Interim Chair and CEO Kathryn Garcia for launching this testing initiative, a part of LeadFreeNYC, and keeping it on schedule for the people of our city.”

"Public housing residents deserve apartments that are safe and lead-free. Testing is essential for the City to know exactly which apartments have lead-based paint, and take prompt remedial action,” said Council Member Rory Lancman.

“The only way to guarantee no one in public housing lives with lead is for the City to mobilize every resource imaginable to test for its presence,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Committee on Immigration. “This announcement is a welcome development and I will work with the Mayor to ensure that testing is carried out fully at the Red Hook West houses.”

Council Member Debi Rose said, “The impact of lead poisoning has had devastating, life-long consequences that affect the social, emotional and physical health of children. This new technology will enable the city to pinpoint exactly where lead still exists in our NYCHA developments so that we can ensure quick and thorough remediation for the health and well-being of all our tenants.”

"NYCHA needs to know with 100 percent accuracy the location of any potentially harmful lead within its developments. This is absolutely crucial to making sure LeadFreeNYC successfully eradicates childhood exposure to lead in New York City," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "Testing using portable X-ray fluorescence is the most efficient way to test all 135,000 public housing apartments Citywide in a reasonable amount of time. I commend Mayor de Blasio for taking this long-standing issue head-on and looking to solve it using an innovative approach. We must do everything we can as a municipal government to keep our children safe and to protect them from the harmful effects of lead-based paint and contaminated dust." 

“We have to break the cycle of neglect for our public housing residents, especially when it comes to our most vulnerable. The physical and developmental disabilities caused by lead paint will unfortunately follow many children for the rest of their lives. We cannot undo the mistakes of the past, but is incumbent upon all of us in City government to ensure that the failures that resulted in this current public health crisis are never repeated. I applaud the Administration for taking decisive action to eradicate the scourge of lead from NYCHA buildings, but I also share the outrage and heartbreak of many families living in public housing who feel that it is long overdue,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal.  

"For years, residents of NYCHA have had to deal with the serious ramifications of exposure to lead-based paint. Thankfully Mayor de Blasio and his administration have been working diligently to tackle this problem head on with the creation of LeadFreeNYC. I am thrilled by today’s announcement of a new “vision zero” approach that will include testing for lead-based paint in over 135,000 NYCHA apartments. I commend the Mayor on his commitment to rectifying this horrible wrong and giving New Yorkers living in NYCHA the peace of mind they deserve," said Council Member Andrew Cohen.

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