Queens residents are suing the MTA for failing to protect them from peeling lead paint on the elevated tracks of the 7 line, which they say rains down on pedestrians, property and businesses below, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.
Plaintiffs of the class action lawsuit include Jackson Heights residents and their children, a day care chain owner, and the owner of the neighborhood’s popular gay club, Club Evolution, according to Kate Foran, the attorney representing the group.
One plaintiff, Dudley Stewart, lives 500 feet from the elevated track on 80th Street in Jackson Heights and fears for the safety of his two children, ages 12 and 8, Foran said.
“His kids are there all the time,” she said. “It’s a scary situation.”
The first elevated structures on the Flushing line were built before June 1915 and were painted with lead-based paint, according to the complaint. And the tracks have been poorly maintained ever since, it adds.
“Copious amounts of peeling lead-based paint, rust, structural wear and pigeon droppings are visible to, and falling on pedestrians and property under and adjacent to the train trestle,” the complaint against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority reads.
“Exposure to lead and lead-based paint at even vanishingly small quantities has the capacity to inflict severe harm on human beings generally. That is especially true for young children, pregnant women and those who are exposed in utero.”
Tammy Rose, another plaintiff, runs several day care centers in Jackson Heights and Sunnyside that are located directly under or 100 feet away from the elevated tracks, according to Foran.
“A lot of the kids who go there are exposed to the tracks as they’re going to school,” Foran said.
Club Evolution owner and longtime Jackson Heights representative Eduardo Valentine is also named in the suit.
None of the plaintiffs is claiming physical injury from the toxins, but are worried about potential health impacts from continued exposure, according to Foran.
“It’s not for injury or money damages, although we believe if you’re exposed to lead, it does injure you,” Foran said. “The only thing we’re seeking is for the MTA to repair the tracks, just those damages.”
Lead paint was used in homes and buildings before 1978 when use of lead-based paint was outlawed, according to the New York State Department of Health.
It can enter the body by breathing in dust from lead paint or by ingesting lead chips including via water or food that has been exposed to lead, the agency said.
Children poisoned by lead can suffer lifelong consequences, and even a small amount can impact a child’s development and cause serious health problems, including learning disabilities and reduced attention span, according to the DOH.
The lawsuit claims that there are a number of schools, houses of worship, parks, nursery schools and grocers selling produce on the streets under the 7 line’s elevated tracks.
“In addition, as these elevated structures cover crowded and busy thoroughfares, each day many individuals, including small children, and pregnant women are obliged to walk to or pass directly underneath the elevated structures in order to cross the street or use the subway,” the complaint says.
The MTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.