Memorandum in Opposition to Intro. 865-A: New York City Administrative Code Amendment to Lead Reference/Action Levels and Standards Relating to Lead-based Paint Hazards

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), the City’s leading real estate trade association, representing commercial, residential, and institutional property owners, builders, managers and brokers, the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH), representing New York’s affordable housing industry, and the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA), comprised of over 25,000 members who own and manage approximately one million units in the City of New York, commend the City Council’s efforts to eradicate lead poisoning.

As previously noted in our testimony, the City has made important strides in reducing lead poisoning—over 90% since 2005—in children below six with levels at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter (μg/dL).[1] The City has strong laws in place, which, if properly enforced, could further decrease lead poisoning where it is most prevalent. Any further enhancements to current laws should strengthen enforcement by targeting areas in the City where lead poisoning is most prevalent and should not impose stricter standards on housing where lead exposure is not a problem.

We have the following specific comments to offer on two proposed bills—Int nos. 865-A and 464-A, which have been amended since the Council’s hearing on elevated blood-lead levels in the City.

INTRO NO: 865-A

SUBJECT: A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to lead reference/action levels and standards relating to lead-based paint hazards

SPONSORS: Johnson, Holden, Kallos, Moya, Cohen

We applaud the Council on this bill, which generally aligns with recommended standards by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by lowering the lead reference and action levels for lead in soil, water and lead-based paint. However, coupled with Int. No. 873, this bill reduces allowable standards for “lead-based paint” to an unreasonable level of 0.3 milligrams (down from 1.0 milligrams) that would surely require pre-1960’s housing to be “lead-free.” Because the “lead-based paint” standard applies to undisturbed lead-based paint which could be buried underneath layers of lead-free paint, it remains unclear how the Council will define “lead-free” and whether that will require whole-unit gut renovation or allow for encapsulation. The Council should consider the potential unintended consequences of passing this standard in conjunction with Int. No. 873, which could strain housing and lead to higher levels of displacement as well as exposure to lead-dust in common areas during performed renovations. We recommend the Council keep the current standard which falls in line with current EPA and CDC standards.

§ 17-920 exempts the NYC Department of Education (DOE) from standards established for day care services. The City Council should ensure the most vulnerable population—children below the age of six who may attend universal pre-k—are not exempted from the protections afforded to children attending other day care or educational services.

§ 17-921 creates a problematic definition of lead-based paint in day care centers that presumes the presence of lead-based paint hazards in all pre-1978’s housing. Again, this presumption may create unintended consequences if the Council deems that the presence of lead-based paint—even if undisturbed—must be removed in its entirely to comply with a new “lead-free” standard. Lastly, it may discourage leasing to day care providers because of the additional liability brought by the providers.

INTRO NO: 464-A

SUBJECT: A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to investigation by the department of health and mental hygiene of dwelling units in which children identified with elevated blood lead levels routinely visit

SPONSORS: Dromm, Cumbo, and Kallos

We agree with the Council that the standard triggering an inspection should be lowered to include units or locations where children routinely visit or spend more than 10 hours per week. However, the Council should also consider unconventional locations which are known to contain lead-based paint, such as subway platforms, stations, or parks that may be underneath elevated train tracksf. The Council should consider broadening this standard to include all potential sources—even environmental—that could give rise to elevated blood-lead levels.

§ 27-2056.3 unnecessarily broadens an owner’s responsibility to remediate for discovered lead-based paint hazards by including language such as “foreseeable occurrence,” “reasonably foreseeable,” and “in the exercise of reasonable care.” Requiring an inspection will ensure hazards are discovered while not unreasonably increasing liability exposure for building owners. The Council should also consider the additional investigations this requires owners to perform that may be interpreted as tenant harassment. Owners should be exempted from harassment complaints for ensuring their buildings comply with the Housing Maintenance Code.  

REBNY, NYSAFAH and RSA look forward to working with the Council to further reform these bills, in addition to all of the lead related bills.

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[1] Report to the New York City Council on Progress in Preventing Childhood Lead Poisoning in New York City. NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. August 30, 2018. Accessed November 20, 2018. <https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/lead/lead-rep-cc-annual-18.pdf>