Johnson and City Council Call on DOE to Crack Down on Lead Paint Problem

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (Credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York)
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (Credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York)

The City of New York outlawed the usage of lead-based paint in 1960. Today, nearly 60 years later, the threat of lead-based contamination is still menacing our public school students. This, said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen), is unacceptable.

Yesterday, Johnson, Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo (D-Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights) and Council Members Mark Treyger (D-Bensonhurst, Coney Island) and Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica, Richmond Hill) penned a letter to New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza demanding that the New York City Department of Education (DOE) thoroughly tests the City’s schools for lead before the school year begins.

The beginning of the month saw the release of a sobering report from the DOE regarding the presence of lead in city classrooms. Inspectors detected lead in more than 900 classrooms for students aged 6 and under.

“It is inconceivable that lead was banned almost 60 years ago and yet still exists in our schools,” reads the letter. “Lead contamination can have lifelong health, developmental and behavioral impacts on children – and no family should have to worry about their child being exposed to lead.”

The letter went on to call out the DOE for their failure to take the City’s lead paint crisis seriously. In particular, it mentioned a recent claim from Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) that lead-contaminated “secondary spaces”, such as stairwells, do not pose a threat to children.

“We believe that the Administration’s reaction to this serious issue is insufficient and downplays the seriousness of lead contamination,” reads the letter. “Responses that diminish the risk posed by lead contamination in secondary spaces are divorced from the reality of how children behave.”

The Council members concluded the letter by reiterating the urgency of the matter and the necessity for immediate action.

“As the school year approaches, we are becoming increasingly concerned that DOE will not perform the necessary lead testing our students and families deserve,” reads the letter. “We believe that testing protocols must be expanded to include all areas of our schools, and that this work must begin immediately.”

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