On Monday at the Williamsburg Community Center, Mayor Bill de Blasio showcased the portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzers, which allow inspectors to see through layers of paint and determine whether or not lead is present.
“It’s straightforward, it’s easy, it’s quick,” the mayor said. “This is going to revolutionize the approach and it’s going to allow us to use the resources we have in a much faster way.”
By the end of 2020, the city will test 135,000 apartments, all of which were built before 1978, when lead paint was banned at the federal level.
Testing began at the Harlem River Houses on April 15. Seven other developments, including the Williamsburg Houses and Red Hook West Houses in Brooklyn, will begin testing on May 1.
De Blasio said the goal is to screen 5,000 to 7,000 apartments per month.
In places where officials do find lead, especially in apartments where a child is under six years old, the city will bring in the Health Department to work with the family and remediate the unit immediately.
“We do not want to see any child suffer, we don’t want to see any families suffer,” he said. “We want to take the challenge of lead exposure and eradicate it once and for all in New York City.”
The city first banned lead paint in 1960, 18 years before the federal government. In 2004, the city passed a local law forcing landlords to identify, remove and address lead issues.
Since then, the mayor said, the city has seen a 90 percent reduction in the number of kids under six years old with elevated lead levels.
According to a report by Interim NYCHA Chair Kathryn Garcia, 97 percent of kids with elevated lead levels live in private homes and apartments, not public housing.
“We’re going to have to go a lot farther to reach those kids,” de Blasio said.
The mayor first announced the $88 million undertaking last July. Since then, the city has awarded nine contracts to seven vendors, including Airtek Environmental, Arc Environmental, ATC Group and Lew Corporation.
According to NYCHA General Manager Vito Mustaciuolo, the 75-person staff will conduct four inspections per day. It takes roughly two hours per apartment, depending on the size of the unit and the amount of furniture.
“We are providing out residents with notification, written notice, two weeks in advance of us coming out to a development,” Mustaciuolo said, “and then we are making phone calls 48 hours in advance.”
Garcia said NYCHA will be posting the results of the inspections every month on its website. Residents will also get a copy of their personal apartment results.
Workers will also be doing visuals required under federal regulations to check for peeling or flaking paint.
“We are the only landlord in the country doing this,” Garcia said, referring to the XRF technology.
Local elected officials praised the administration’s efforts to combat lead paint in the city.
“I feel better being able to meet with residents in my district and tell them we have a plan and that it will get done,” said Councilman Antonio Reynoso. “I’m glad there’s technology that lets us do this in a meaningful way.”
“This issue, at the end of the day, is about one thing only,” added Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, who represents Red Hook, “to make sure that our children and our families are lead free.”