By Bianca Fortis
City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) is working to pass a bill that addresses dangerous mold conditions in properties as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
Should the bill pass, the city Department of Health will have the authority to inspect abandoned and vacant properties for mold growth. If mold is present, the department can issue notices of violation. If the property owner does not comply and address the problem, the DOH will do the remediation and then bill the property owner.
“These homes are a public nuisance and blight on our communities,” Ulrich said in a statement. “You don’t have to be a scientist or medical doctor to know how dangerous and unhealthy mold can be. I am optimistic that this legislation will force the banks and absentee landlords to take responsibility for these properties once and for all.”
Health impacts resulting from mold include irritation of the eyes, nose, throat or lungs as well as hay fever and asthma, according to the state Department of Health.
Jonathan Gaska, district manager of Community Board 14, said mold growth is a serious problem in the Rockaways. He said there are many properties, both residential and commercial that need to address the problem.
“If you live next door, you’re concerned about breathing in the air,” he said.
He said that immediately after the storm, some property owners were ripped off when remediation companies did an inadequate job of actually removing the mold.
While many of the affected properties are in foreclosure or abandoned, Gaska said many still have residents living in them.
He said the price of remediation is probably a factor for many property owners who have not had it done.
But he warned, “if you’re living in a home, that’s dangerous, it’s dangerous.”
Gaska said there are government programs that can assist people with mold remediation.
Several of the charities who have raised funds for Sandy relief also list the service as one of the ways in which they continue to help storm victims.
Gaska likened the situation to a home with a crumbling foundation.
“Whether you can afford to fix it or not, your house is going to collapse,” he said. “The government has to step in and be the adult in the room and say, ‘Fix it or get out.’”
Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.