City Council Passes Lead-Related Legislation
Inspectors may soon have to report on landlords who try to contest their results.
Lead poisoning has been in the news lately as the Biden administration recently proposed stricter limits on dust from lead-based paint in older homes and childcare facilities. Also, according to a 2022 report by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), 2,557 New York City children aged 6 or under were tested to have blood levels of 5 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) or greater in 2021, the threshold at the time that would trigger an investigation from the city. Last year, the DOHMH adopted a stricter standard that matched the CDC’s current guidelines. The Department lowered the threshold that would automatically trigger an investigation from 5 mcg/dL to 3.5 mcg/dL.
The City Council recently passed two bills aimed at closing loopholes around lead paint enforcement and bringing the city closer to its goal of ending childhood lead poisoning. As a result of this legislation, city inspectors may soon have to perform more thorough lead paint inspections and report on landlords who try to contest their results. These measures have been sent to Mayor Adams for his approval or veto.
This bill, sponsored by Council Member Carlina Rivera, makes peeling or chipped lead-based paint a class C immediately hazardous violation from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) in common areas of buildings where a child under 6 resides. The bill also instructs HPD inspectors to conduct visual inspections of common areas that are on their paths to inspect apartments in buildings constructed before 1960 where a child under 6 resides.
The legislation initially required HPD inspectors to examine all common areas in such residences during their inspections, but this broad mandate received pushback from the city agency. At an April hearing on the legislative package, HPD representative AnnMarie Santiago voiced her opposition to the bill stating, “The resources that would be required for HPD to inspect, issue violations for, and correct peeling paint in public areas would be one of the largest new needs HPD would face, and raises concerns about focusing resources on an area which will not yield a high return in terms of the impact on reducing exposure.”
Currently, the presence of lead within a dwelling where a young child resides results in a violation. The new law extends those violations to common areas of the building as well. For this type of violation, the landlord would have 24 hours to correct the violation and face fines for every day the violation isn’t corrected.
This bill, sponsored by Council Member Rafael Salamanca, requires the DOHMH to publish biannual reports on objections filed by building owners in response to the city’s lead abatement orders, including objections filed by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). According to the bill’s sponsor, the City Council discovered through hearings that NYCHA failed to conduct mandatory paint inspections for years and was appealing the majority of the Health Department’s lead abatement orders.
In addition to how many objections were made, the report must specify the reasoning for objections that had merit. This reasoning can include faulty testing or sampling, or exemptions based on construction dates. The report must also be published and publicly available on the DOHMH website.