Friday, September 17, 2021

Attorney General James Protects NYC Children from Lead Poisoning in Housing


AG’s Investigation Found Major Landlord Lacked Compliance with New York City Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act
A&E Will Pay $510,000 to Fund OAG Programs that Help Protect Children from Lead Poisoning

  New York Attorney General Letitia James announced today that her office has reached an agreement with a major New York City landlord to ensure that children living in its apartments are protected from dangerous lead-based paint. The agreement resolves the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) investigation into A&E Real Estate Holdings (A&E), which found that A&E was not in compliance with apartment inspection, lead hazard remediation, and other key requirements of New York City’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act.

As a part of today’s agreement, A&E will continue to bring its apartments into compliance with the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, and will report its compliance to the OAG for the next three years. A&E will also pay $510,000 to the OAG for initiatives aimed at protecting children from lead poisoning. This is the first announced agreement resulting from investigations that the OAG is conducting into New York City apartment building owner and operators’ compliance with the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act.

“The legacy of lead paint in housing continues to be an enduring threat to the health and future of our youngest New Yorkers,” said Attorney General James. “Children have the right to live in healthy, hazard-free environments, and their landlords have an obligation to ensure that happens. The health and safety of our children is paramount, and through today’s action, we will continue to ensure that they are always our priority.”

Lead is a highly toxic metal that can cause serious and irreversible adverse health effects. Children who have been exposed to even very low levels of lead are at risk for neurological and physical problems during critical stages of early development. In fact, no safe lead level in children has been identified. Children under six are more likely to be exposed to lead than any other age group, as their normal behaviors could result in them chewing lead paint chips; breathing in or swallowing dust from old lead paint that gets on floors, window sills, and hands; and can be found in soil, toys, and other consumer products. Lead poisoning in New York City is highest among children of color and children living in high-poverty neighborhoods.

Lead paint in residential housing has been a pervasive problem for decades, particularly in New York. Beginning in the 20th century, paint with dangerously high levels of lead was used on both exterior and interior surfaces of housing in the United States. Lead paint has been found in approximately 43 percent of all of New York dwellings. In 1960, New York City prohibited the sale of paint with high levels of lead for residential use, New York state imposed a state-wide ban in 1970, and the federal government banned lead in paint in 1978. The vast majority of older, painted buildings contain some paint with lead levels higher than these bans. The New York City Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act requires owners of apartments and houses built before 1960 to take critical safety measures to prevent lead poisoning in children tenants.

A&E owns and manages more than 10,000 apartments in buildings throughout New York City, most of which are located in Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. The OAG’s investigation into A&E, beginning in 2018, determined that A&E violated several provisions of the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act related to notice requirements, annual inquiries, and turnover procedures. Specifically, A&E:

  • Did not ensure that tenants filled out the lease notice indicating whether children under the age of six would live in the apartment and did not ensure that it recorded that information;
  • Did not do the required follow-up when tenants did not respond to annual notices regarding whether children under the age of six lived in an apartment;
  • Did not confirm that it performed annual lead paint hazard investigations of all apartments where lease notices or annual notices indicated a child under the age of six lived;
  • Did not investigate for hazards beyond peeling lead paint prior to 2019;
  • Informed tenants of the results of annual investigations only when it discovered lead paint hazards and addressed work orders; and
  • Could not confirm that it complied with the requirements imposed by the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act when an apartment was vacated and it did not certify in new leases that it had done so.

A&E’s non-compliance resulted in the potential exposure to lead-based paint hazards, particularly for children under the age of six.

The agreement reached today requires A&E to achieve and maintain full compliance with all requirements of the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, including taking actions to resolve lead-based paint violations open with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). A&E also agreed to take several measures beyond the requirements of the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, including reporting directly to the OAG regularly on its compliance with the Act for the next three years, and paying $510,000 to the OAG to fund projects that help protect children from lead poisoning. Any future violation of the law by A&E violates the agreement and could subject the company to legal action by the OAG.

Attorney General James thanks HPD for its assistance in this and other, related ongoing investigations.

“HPD is committed to meeting the goals of LeadFreeNYC, keeping children safe from lead through enhanced enforcement against property owners who fail to meet their obligations and through education and resources for tenants and property owners,” said HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll. “We will continue to pursue enforcement through our own litigation and in joint efforts with partners like the attorney general, who utilize the work of our inspectors and lead-based paint enforcement teams to identify and audit buildings where lead-based paint regulations are not followed. I hope this settlement serves to let all property owners know how seriously HPD and the attorney general take lead-based paint compliance and encourages them to find out more about how to properly comply.”

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