By Mark Hallum
State lawmakers from Queens and the Bronx are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation which will address toxic and illegal lead levels in paint lacing the elevated tracks of the No. 7 train in the area of the 74th Street – Roosevelt Avenue station. The bill passed the Senate and Assembly last month.
The lead was found in the paint during a study performed by the District 9 International Union of Painters which was shown to contain 224,000 parts per million of the neurotoxin, more than 40 times the legal level.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) stood with Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) Friday at the senator’s district office to urge Cuomo to sign the bill, which will require the MTA to perform an environmental study on the paint job of the elevated tracks and require the agency to remedy any toxicity associated with the century-old tracks to prevent falling lead particles from reaching New Yorkers below.
“This is about protecting New Yorkers and ensuring their safety. High levels of lead paint in chips falling onto the streets and sidewalk endanger the lives of neighbors, visitors, shoppers, and commuters,” Peralta said. “It is imperative that we remove hazardous lead paint from above-ground subway lines throughout the city.
Dinowitz explained how the bill affects non-Queens residents living along the No. 7 line and how it’s likely to have an effect on his district, which has stretches of the elevated track of the No. 1 train, among others. He also pointed out that elevated trains are common in northern Manhattan and Brooklyn, putting the customers of street vendors selling food in the most immediate harm.
“We cannot expect people to live and work while being forced to use subway platforms coated in flaking lead-paint chips that may increase their risk of lead poisoning,” Dinowitz said. “It is almost inconceivable in this day and age that people must put up with any lead poisoning-related dangers, yet this legislation will go some way toward ending this problem.”
Peralta said although the more obvious signs of the harmful effects of lead — which can cause irreversible developmental issues in children — have not revealed themselves in his district, asthma is currently prevalent among youth in East Elmhurst.
Cuomo has already declared a state of emergency for the city’s transit system, which has been rife with breakdowns, delays and derailments. While some of the issues can be attributed to human error, the majority of problems come from dramatically increased ridership and a signal system designed in the 19th century which prohibits the MTA from running trains closer together. Power issues have also been known to leave straphangers stranded in tunnels for hours at a time in some cases.
While the governor has poured an addition $1 billion into the MTA capital funds for the necessary overhauls, Peralta said there is no estimate to the cost of repainting the No. 7 alone. The study would have to make that determination.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall