The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) recently was awarded $25 million by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to address health and safety emergencies, as well as crime- and drug-related problems in public housing.
Of the $25 million, more than $7 million was given specifically to deal with the ongoing issue of lead-based paint causing serious hazards in public housing. The remaining $17 million is dedicated to installing more security lighting.
Approximately 130,000 of NYCHA's 175,000 apartments were built before the 1970s, when lead the use of lead paint was still legal. Over the years, the agency has been tasked with removing the toxic substance.
The funding came the same day a report was published by The City stating a child contracted lead poisoning after living in a NYCHA apartment, which the agency had falsely certified as being lead-free. The report said the NYCHA official in question never visited the Red Hook Houses, where the poisoning occurred.
In October 2020, the federal monitor appointed to oversee NYCHA said investigations by the agency found more than 9,000 children under the age of 6 had possibly been exposed to lead poisoning, more than three times the number originally reported. The federal monitor was instituted in 2019 when the agency was found to have hidden its failure to conduct lead paint inspections.
In 2018, the city was forced to pay $1 billion over the course of four years towards NYCHA and at least $200 million annually via consent decree to deal with the problematic conditions of NYCHA housing. In the past, the agency has been caught trying to cover up a host of issues with, which, on top of issues with lead paint, include issues with rat infestations and mold.
Councilmember Darma V. Diaz, who represents Bushwick, East New York and Brownsville, told BK Reader giving the agency money wasn't enough to fix its problems.
"It's not so much about money, it's about time and personnel," Diaz said. "It could be $100 million, but if we don't have individuals prepared to deal with the situation, it's nonsense to me."
Lead paint has significant adverse effects on children exposed to it. It can impact a child's development, leading to behavioral and speech issues and damage to the brain and nervous system.
Councilmember Farah Louis, whose district covers Flatbush and East Flatbush, said children and their families were the ones footing the bill for NYCHA's, "long history of mismanagement and gross negligence," adding it was a criminal act that the agency falsely certified apartments to be lead-free.
"Many New Yorkers are rent-burdened, cannot afford to move, and forced to live in apartments with uninhabitable conditions," Louis said. "NYCHA has repeatedly failed to protect its residents, and we have yet to comprehend the gravity or long-term consequences of their inaction."
Louis said she hoped NYCHA would undergo a major overhaul paired with adequate funding through the Biden administration.
The Capital Fund that is being awarded to NYCHA is set aside each year by Congress in order to deal with emergency and disaster situations throughout the country.
Lynne Patton, HUD Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey, said in a statement residents' homes were their sanctuaries. "They need to know that they are safe to be able to truly thrive," she said. Patton said the funding would "further assist with lead remediation and targeting criminal activity."