NY Post: Federal officials give NYCHA 20 years to rid the Bronx River Houses of lead

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By Nolan Hicks, Allie Griffin and Olivia Bensimon
March 10, 2019

Federal officials have inexplicably given the embattled New York City Housing Authority up to 20 years to get the lead out of a development where nearly every apartment tested was found to be contaminated, The Post has learned.

A staggering 98 percent of tests for lead in units at the Bronx River Houses came back positive, according to the blockbuster 2018 lawsuit federal prosecutors in Manhattan filed brought against NYCHA.

The suit identified three complexes — Bronx River, Manhattan’s Harlem River Houses and Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Houses — with widespread lead contamination.

But while January’s settlement agreement set a five-year deadline to remove the lead from apartments and common areas at the Harlem River and Williamsburg complexes, it gave NYCHA four times as long to clean up Bronx River’s 1,246 apartments.

“It’s upsetting they’re taking their time with us, especially if there’s no clear reason why,” resident Carl Hill fumed as he carried his two-year-old son Jacob while waiting for an Uber.

Legal Aid lawyer Judith Goldiner, who recently sued NYCHA on behalf of tenants who went without heat and hot water during the winter of 2017-18, said that even five years “seems too long” to get rid of dangerous lead paint.

“Twenty years — that’s three generations of kids that could be impacted,” she said.

Goldiner also said the feds and NYCHA “should explain why they’re going to treat a development with rampant lead paint differently than another development with rampant lead paint.”

Danny Barber, the head of NYCHA’s main tenant association — the Citywide Council of Presidents — said the agency’s past performance left him skeptical it could produce results even within two decades.

“We know that it’s going to fall to deaf ears,” he said. “I think Bronx River should be cleaned up in five years — maximum.”

NYCHA referred questions about the 20-year deadline to the Manhattan US Attorney’s Office and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Officials there declined to comment.

Last month, NYCHA announced that it would spend $88 million over the next two years so that contractors can use x-ray guns to inspect all 135,000 apartments that have never previously checked for lead.

Officials said it will be the first systematic sweep for lead in NYCHA buildings, and would finally provide a definitive list of which apartments are contaminated.