Sen. Bill Perkins Demands Immediate City And State Action To Stop Placing Homeless Children In Homes With Serious Lead Hazard

Bill Perkins

January 22, 2007

Joined by community, housing, health and environmental leaders, State Sen. Bill Perkins (D - Harlem), today demanded immediate action by the City and State to improve the oversight and administration of the city’s Housing Stability Plus (HSP) program to insure that homeless children are no longer placed by the city into homes with serious lead hazards, resulting in the poisoning of children. Lead poisoning in children is preventable, but not curable.

"It is outrageous that the oversight is so lax that instead of providing safe shelter for homeless families, the City is placing these children in greater danger than they faced on the street," said Sen. Perkins. "Every child deserves the opportunity to lead a healthy life. It is time for Mayor Bloomberg to enforce the law properly to prevent future problems of this nature."

Sen. Perkins also released a letter sent to Governor Spitzer calling on the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance ("OTDA"), which retains oversight of the program, to require city certification of the safety of HSP homes and to impose sanctions on the City if it continues to be deficient in its administration of the HSP program.

Lead poisoning causes brain damage, seizures and is an irreversible affliction. It also causes a multitude of costs to the city in hospital treatment, special education and other expenditures. The Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act was sponsored by Perkins and passed by the City Council on February 4, 2004, overriding a veto by Mayor Bloomberg, and took effect on August 2, 2004. The law requires landlords to safely remove lead-based paint hazards from apartments with children younger than seven.

This law provides the City with all the tools needed to assure that the dwelling units which the City's intends to place homeless families in its HSP program do not have hazardous lead paint conditions at move-in. Unfortunately, it appears that the City has not compelled compliance with its turnover requirements or used HPD's trained inspectors in assuring that these dwellings are safe prior to move-in.

A New York Daily News investigation reported that lead-violation notices were issued to about 900 buildings inhabited by families in the Bloomberg administration's Housing Stability Plus program over the past two years.

Sen. Perkins added, "New Yorkers can be proud that we have a model law in place to protect our children. We can prevent the permanent injuries of lead poisoning from happening to countless others."

Also speaking at the press conference was Jasmine Taylor, the mother of a child who was lead poisoned as a result of the City’s Housing Stability Plus program. Ms. Taylor’s story was featured in this past Sunday’s exposé in the Daily News on the problem.