Queens lawmaker demands that the MTA study high levels of lead paint on 7 train

MTA lead bill
Photo courtesy of state Sen. Jose Peralta

After a local painters union found that paint chips falling from the elevated tracks on the 7 line contained extremely high levels of lead, lawmakers are calling on the MTA to study the paint and work to remove it.

State Senator Jose Peralta introduced legislation along with Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz that would require the MTA and New York City Transit Authority to conduct a study on lead paint on elevated subway tracks and stations throughout the city.

District 9 International Union of Painters and Allied Trades found that the 52nd Street station in Jackson Heights contains more than 40 times the legal threshold of lead paint, which amounts to 224,000 parts per million of lead paint. Abatement is usually required when lead levels are higher than 5,000 parts per million, the union said. 

“As we just celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 7 train, what better present than repainting the trestles, above-ground stations, and making sure dangerous lead paint chips no longer fall onto the streets and sidewalks?” Peralta said. “This is the subway line that cuts through several hard-working neighborhoods like Corona, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Woodside.”

The legislation would require the MTA to submit a written report that includes the study, which would be conducted in tandem with the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health to determine how the MTA complies with the federal Clean Air Act.

The report should also include recommendations to eliminate exposure to lead from falling paint chips and past station renovations to outline the level of lead abatement that was done.

According to the MTA, the levels cited by the union were above Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines for residential homes, which include a different standard than outdoor elevated structures. The union also represents contractors who have a bid out on the contract to paint the structure.

According to Beth DeFalco, spokesperson for the MTA, most of the Flushing Line has been repainted and the stretch cited by the union will be painted with funds from the current budget.

“We don’t comment on pending legislation,” she said in a statement. “However, the safety of all our customers and the surrounding community is a top priority. The MTA has an aggressive repainting program across the entire system which includes proactively scraping and repainting our structures. Nearly all [of the] Flushing Line has been repainted in recent years and the remaining 3.1-mile stretch will be done as part of the current Capital Program.”

NYCT’s environmental consultant has previously tested the air quality along the line and found that levels were within the National Ambient Air Quality Standards but the consultant is currently having samples along the 7 line analyzed again, the MTA said.