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NYC Files False Lead Inspection Paperwork

Friday, November 17, 2017

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A new report released by the Department of Investigation in New York City claims that the chairwoman of the city’s housing authority knew that agency inspectors were not performing required checks for lead paint and signed off on paperwork that said those checks were completed.

The findings said that the agency has gone years without inspecting for lead.

“Although Chair [Shola] Olatoye, the general manager and other senior executives were aware that [the New York City Housing Authority] was out of compliance,” the report said, “NYCHA nonetheless submitted a false certification in October 2016, and had no reasonable explanation why this was acceptable.”

What Were the Findings?

The issue of lead paint in the city’s public housing is the center of a federal investigation that began last March, and at the time, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the administration would cooperate fully.

The eight-page report says that the city stopped conducting annual inspections of apartments for general conditions in 2012, when the Department of Housing and Urban Development relaxed those mandates. However, it was in the course of those checks that the authority had looked for lead paint, and the federal government did not end its requirement for annual inspection of apartments where lead paint was possible.

Where the city failed, then, was in instituting a new plan for inspecting for lead apart from the general inspections that were no longer required.

According to The New York Times, about 55,000 apartments fall under possibility for lead and the mandate for annual inspections—within those apartments are roughly 4,200 children under the age of 6, who are the most vulnerable to lead poisoning.

Even though the city had not met the yearly lead inspection requirements each year after 2012, it had filed paperwork saying it had.

NYCHA had acknowledged that lapse this summer when it filed an amendment to its most recent filings, but it was unclear if and when top officials knew that the agency hadn’t been compliant.

The report says that senior officials knew in May 2015, and Chairwoman Olatoye knew in the summer of 2016 and communicated to HUD, yet the papers saying they had complied were still signed off on and filed.

“NYCHA failed to put in place a system to confirm the accuracy of federal forms before they were submitted,” the report states.

Despite the findings, a spokesperson for the agency, Jean Weinberg, said in an email to the Times that the agency “began addressing these issues more than a year ago” in connection with the federal investigation.

“NYCHA has acknowledged not only gaps in lead compliance,” she said, “but gaps in communications between senior NYCHA officials and NYCHA’s top leadership resulted in incorrect certifications to HUD.”

What Happens Now?

The DOI has recommended that an independent monitor be appointed, and de Blasio said via a spokesperson that he would be considering that recommendation.

A spokesperson for the Investigation Department said the findings will be turned over to federal prosecutors, who will decide what should happen next.

Under federal law, the New York Post notes, a knowing and willful false statement to the government is a felony that carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.

   

Tagged categories: Housing; Laws and litigation; Lead; Lead paint abatement

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