NYCHA’s Controversial Stance on Lead Paint Violations

A CBS New York Investigation

In a recent investigation by CBS New York, it was revealed that the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) contests lead paint violations far more often than other landlords in the city. This has raised concerns about the safety of NYCHA’s housing and the potential health risks posed to its residents, particularly young children.

The Investigation

The investigation, led by CBS New York investigative reporter Tim McNicholas, found that NYCHA not only contests violations but also gets violations canceled more often than private landlords. This was the case for Ikasha Whitaker, a resident of NYCHA’s East River Houses, whose 3-year-old daughter Afiyah had lead levels 31 times the average amount for a child. Whitaker believes Afiyah accidentally ingested lead paint chips or dust from their apartment, which can cause brain damage and stunted development in children.

The Controversy

After Afiyah’s blood test, the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene tested the home, found 22 lead-based paint hazards, and ordered NYCHA to fix them. However, NYCHA contested 21 of the 22 violations, which were found with a kind of testing called XRF, using a device that can detect lead through multiple layers of paint. NYCHA had a different kind of test done at the apartment — a paint chip analysis, which showed significantly different results from the health department’s test. Based on that paint chip analysis, the health department agreed to dismiss 16 of the 22 violations.

The Implications

The investigation revealed that in the last five and a half years, the health department has dismissed lead paint violations more often for NYCHA than for private landlords. When private landlords contested the health department’s orders to fix lead paint hazards, the health department agreed to either reduce the number of violations for the landlord or remove them altogether in 60% of those orders. When NYCHA was the one contesting, violations were at least reduced 74% of the time.

The Response

NYCHA’s stance on contesting lead paint violations has raised concerns among residents and advocates. The health department maintains that they handle NYCHA cases the same as they do for other landlords. However, the CBS New York investigation suggests otherwise, highlighting the need for greater transparency and accountability in addressing lead paint hazards in NYCHA housing.

The findings of this investigation serve as a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges posed by lead paint, particularly in public housing. It underscores the importance of stringent regulations and proactive measures in protecting residents, particularly young children, from the dangers of lead exposure. As the controversy unfolds, it is hoped that the necessary steps will be taken to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all NYCHA residents.