Congresswoman Grace Meng is calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to expedite the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) lead paint testing initiative at complexes in Queens.
In a July 25 letter to the mayor, Meng noted that “while the city rightly prioritized testing in complexes with the highest number of children under 6, the reported backlog on testing and failure to begin in Queens is unacceptable,” she said.
Meng’s district includes three NYCHA developments: Pomonok, Latimer Gardens, and the Bland Houses, all of which are located in Flushing.
“As of July 23, not a single NYCHA complex in Queens has been tested,” Meng said. “The Pomonok Houses, in particular, have the highest number of children under 6 in Queens—fourth highest across all NYCHA complexes; but have yet to be tested,” Meng said in the letter. “In these houses, each of the more than 300 children under 6 are threatened by the dangers of lead poisoning.”
The Congresswoman further said that the exposure to lead is a serious health hazard with particularly pernicious effects on children under 6.
“According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there is no safe amount of lead exposure in children,” Meng said. “Some effects of lead exposure to children include irreversible neurological and behavioral damages such as reduced IQ and shorter attention spans. It is entirely unacceptable that anyone – let alone vulnerable children – should live in such threatening conditions a day longer.”
On April 15, de Blasio launced NYCHA’s new lead-based paint testing program, which is part of the LeadFreeNYC, the city’s roadmap to eradicate childhood lead exposure. LeadFreeNYC’s approach is twofold: prevent exposure to lead hazards in the first place, and respond quickly and comprehensively if a child has an elevated blood lead level.
NYCHA began the X-ray fluorescence (XRF) testing initiative of 134,084 units at NYCHA developments, built before 1978, according to the NYC Housing Authority Lead-Based Paint Report: XRF Testing Initiative. Only units that have not been previously tested will be included in the initiative. Testing is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020.
The report shows there have been zero progress in lead paint testing at NYCHA complexes in Queens. However, according to the NYC Housing Authority, XRF testing is scheduled to begin this summer in the Pomonok, Astoria, Queensbridge North, South Jamaica II and Woodside houses. There is also a scheduled lead paint testing at the Bland Houses in Winter 2020.
A total of 6,528 units have been tested citywide but the results of 4,321 of those tests are still pending. Of the 2,207 apartments where the results were recorded, 1,604 tested positive for lead and 603 tested negative, according to NYCHA’s data.
As the mayor is continuing the lead-testing initiative, Meng is requesting an update on the status of testing, she said.
“Inspecting approximately 135,000 apartments throughout the city is a vast undertaking,” Meng said. “But that challenge cannot get in the way of testing housing units in Queens. Health and safety must always be the top priority for all who reside in NYCHA complexes, particularly children, who should never be forced to endure exposure to lead. I await answers from the Mayor.”