Lead inspections begin at 135,000 NYC public housing apartments

The city on Monday began its massive effort to inspect 135,000 NYCHA apartments for lead hazards, and hopes to move through the process faster-than-expected thanks to a broad implementation of detection technology.

The inspections, which began at the Harlem River Houses on Monday, will commence at seven other developments in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx on May 1, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio. The buildings, which were all built before 1978, were prioritized because they were home to the largest concentration of children under 6 years old.

The mayor said the city has contracted vendors who will do the inspections with X-ray fluorescence (XRF) scanners that can detect lead with the flip of a switch.

"Literally the technology allows inspectors to see through all of the layers," de Blasio said.

The mayor and NYCHA Interim Chair Kathryn Garcia said the tech will help catalog the number of lead-free apartments at a rate of 5,000 to 7,000 apartments a month. The city aims to have all 135,000 apartments inspected by 2020.

Garcia said if lead is found in a unit, the city will immediately send teams to remediate and make the apartment safe.

"We will continue to accelerate lead testing to ensure NYCHA is lead-free and our residents are safe from lead-based hazards in their homes,” she said in a statement.

In January, the city officially settled a lawsuit brought by the Southern District of New York over its mismanagement of NYCHA — particularly its handling of lead cases in its units. In addition to allowing HUD to appoint a federal monitor, the city will also work with HUD to choose the next NYCHA Chair.

De Blasio said Monday that his office is still in conversation with HUD about that decision.