June 11, 2018 / 5:07 PM / 10 days ago

NYC housing agency agrees to lead cleanup under federal supervision

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The agency overseeing public housing in New York City has reached a deal to settle claims by federal authorities that it failed for years to remedy toxic lead paint and other hazards, according to a filing in Manhattan federal court on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers remarks at his 2018 Inaugural Ceremony at City Hall in Manhattan, New York, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Under terms of the settlement with Manhattan U.S. Attorney Richard Berman, the New York City Housing Authority has agreed that a monitor, proposed by the federal government, will be appointed by a federal judge to oversee cleanup efforts. The city will commit $1 billion in capital funding over the next four years, and $200 million for each year after that until a judge finds that NYCHA has fulfilled its obligations and the agreement is no longer needed.

“NYCHA’s failure to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing is simply unacceptable, and illegal,” Berman said in a statement.

The danger of lead paint exposure, which can cause developmental problems in children, is not confined to the city’s public housing. A Reuters report last year identified 69 New York City census tracts where at least 10 percent of small children screened over an 11-year period, from 2005 to 2015, had elevated lead levels.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement he was confident the settlement would mark “a turning point” in the public housing system.

According to the settlement, NYCHA admitted that since at least 2010 it had not performed regular lead paint inspections, and that from 2010 to 2016 it falsely told federal authorities it was complying with led paint regulations.

It also admitted that at least 92 of its public housing units contained lead paint inside apartments and that it had received “thousands” of complaints about mold since 2011. The agency said it had 825,000 complaints about insufficient heat between 2011 and 2016, and that last winter alone, 320,000 of NYCHA’s approximately 400,000 residents lost heat.

NYCHA also said its housing developments have been plagued by broken elevators, delayed repairs and cockroach, mouse and rat infestations. It admitted that it told its staff how to cover up problems for federal inspections, including by replating damaged ceiling tiles with painted cardboard and hiding improperly stored flammable materials.

“The problems at NYCHA reflect management dysfunction and organizational failure, including a culture where spin is often rewarded and accountability often does not exist,” Berman’s office said in a complaint filed along with the settlement on Monday.

Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Tom Brown

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