By Bill Parry
Jackson Heights business owners, residents and environmental attorneys joined City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) Tuesday to announce a class action lawsuit against the MTA, claiming the public transit entity failed to address a public health hazard posed by lead paint on the Roosevelt Avenue train trestles of the No. 7 subway line.
The plaintiffs gathered across from the 74th Street-Broadway subway station and accused the agency of allowing dangerous lead paint chips to fall from dilapidated stations along the line from Long Island City to Flushing for years.
“This lawsuit is in response to an urgent public health crisis that has endangered our community for far too long,” said Dromm, who identified this concern more than seven years ago. “The facts are clear: Lead levels in the paint chipping away from the 7 train trestles are over 40 times what they should be. Alarmingly, the MTA has been aware of and ignored these emergency conditions for years. For decades, they allow this and the surrounding property to fall into disrepair. The MTA’s failure to address these hazardous conditions put our families at risk. By filing this lawsuit, we seek to compel the MTA to take immediate action and restore safety for thousands of men, women and children who live, work and go to school near Roosevelt Avenue.”
According to District 9 International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, some samples of paint chips raining down on neighborhoods beneath the elevated subway line contain 224,000 parts per million of lead paint, more than 40 times the legal threshold. Lead abatement proceedings are generally required when levels top 5,000 parts per million, as exposure to poisonous levels of lead paint can result in extensive damage to a person’s central nervous system and brain.
“As counsel for these plaintiffs, we believe that the MTA’s knowing and continuing refusal to deal with the public health emergency that lead paint from the Flushing line poses is unconscionable,” attorney Kate Foran of Phillips & Paolicelli LLP said. “Not only does it place small children, pregnant women and the rest of this community at great and cumulative risk, but it does so every day. This conduct, we believe, violates both federal and state Law. It is our intention to ask the court to impose both a preliminary and a final injunction to compel the MTA to address this situation properly, once and for all.”
The MTA does not comment on pending lawsuits, according to a spokesman, who said its own air quality tests haven’t found any dangerous conditions.
“The community is rightfully concerned that the high lead concentrations in the paint is a health hazard, and must be immediately remediated by scraping the existing paint and providing a new coat,” state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) said. “The MTA has had every opportunity to acknowledge this problem, but chose instead to dismiss these concerns and now the community must take action.”
City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst) agreed saying the neighborhoods deserves better.
“For decades the structure of the 7 train has been neglected by the MTA, creating conditions that endanger the health and safety of our community, most of whom are people of color,” she said. “And while the cost of public transportation continues to increase almost every year, the MTA has failed to invest in remediating these conditions. I commend Council member Dromm for leading the charge to get the truth and hold the MTA accountable.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr