Torres demands federal investment for NYCHA lead abatement and removal

CM Ritchies Torres demands federal investment for NYCHA lead abatement and removal Friday at a press conference.
Photos by Jason Cohen

Many NYCHA residents do not realize they are surrounded by lead. NYCHA facilities that were built pre-1978 need lead abatement and removal, yet the federal government has no money set aside for this purpose.

On Friday, Sept. 18, Councilman Ritchie Torres held a press conference at the Monterey Houses at 2100 Monterey Ave., where he demanded the Trump Administration take action to improve lead abatement and invest $300 billion for NYCHA into its next stimulus package.

Torres grew up in public housing, so Congressional candidate knows the struggle far too well.

“Once you are exposed to lead it has consequences that will haunt you for the rest of your life,” Torres said. “We as a society have a moral obligation to protect our children and their future.”

Tenant advocate Leah James speaks about the need for lead abatement and the poor conditions in the NYCHA buildings.

The councilman explained the numbers of children poisoned by lead are “a tale of two cities.”

In Manhattan, there were 289 children poisoned in 2018 and 213 in 2019. Meanwhile in the Bronx, 819 children were poisoned in 2018 and 670 in 2020.

He stressed that this is just a small part of the story. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) uses a blood lead reference value of five micrograms per deciliter to identify children with blood lead levels that are much higher than most children’s levels. This new level is based on the U.S. population of children ages 1 to 5 who are in the highest 2.5 percent of kids when tested for lead in their blood.

“These numbers only capture the worst cases,” he remarked. “There’s no such thing as a safe amount of lead exposure.”

According to Torres, not only has the government failed to take care of public housing, but President Trump aired a video during the Republican National Convention claiming it has.

Torres said that just because people are poor does not mean they should live in unsafe conditions.

“The federal government has zero commitment to protecting our children from lead poisoning,” Torres said. “The time has come to eradicate childhood lead poisoning. No child should be left behind and poisoned by lead in their own home.”

Tenant advocate and former public housing resident Leah James surveyed the Monterey Houses and many others and is disgusted with the conditions they are in.

From black walls to brown water, she noted that people should not be living in such hazardous environments. However, James revealed many have no idea the NYCHA buildings are filled with lead paint.

She told the Bronx Times many people cannot afford to move out and even if they apply for a new place, it can take years for their applications to be approved.“The federal government should allocate $3 billion to remove lead,” she commented. “They’ve been living here for so many years and they don’t know where to go.”

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