Legislation introduced by state Senator Jose Peralta this past summer requiring the MTA to study lead levels in paint used on elevated subway tracks was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Dec. 18.
In May, a local painters union found that paint chips falling from the 7 train in Jackson Heights contained high levels of lead.
District 9 International Union of Painters and Allied Trades said the paint falling from the elevated 7 train contained more than 40 times the legal threshold of lead paint, which amounts to 224,000 parts per million. Abatement is usually required when lead levels are higher than 5,000 parts per million, the union said.
Soon after, Peralta and Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz drafted a bill 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.
That same month, business owners and Jackson Heights residents filed a class-action lawsuit against the MTA arguing that “the MTA has wrongfully, knowingly, deliberately, intentionally, and as a matter of policy permitted a dangerous condition to exist and to continue to exist.”
The legislation requires the MTA to submit a written report that includes the study on lead paint levels, 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 should feature past station renovations to outline the level of lead abatement that was done.
“New Yorkers will feel safer knowing that dangerous lead paint levels in the subway system will be dealt with from now on,” Peralta said. “For too long, lead paint chips have been falling onto the streets, but now the MTA will have to remove this hazardous situation when it does renovations or repaints elevated parts of the subway system. This is a good first step in protecting our communities, neighbors, visitors and shoppers.”
The bill stipulates that the MTA and NYCT must submit the report to the governor, Senate, Assembly and mayor on or before March 1, 2018.
“Safety is a top priority when performing work on our system and we look forward to detailing our work around lead abatement,” a spokesperson for the MTA said. “Any work involving lead paint is performed in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and federal and state requirements for our workers, the traveling public and the communities that we serve.”
The spokesperson added that the MTA put out a bid on Dec. 18 for interested companies to paint the elevated 7 line from 74th Street to 103rd Street.