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De Blasio knew of NYCHA's failure to inspect for lead paint in public housing: report

NYCHA is in hot water for submitting false claims regarding lead paint inspections 

Wyckoff Gardens NYCHA Jim Henderson / Wikimedia Commons

In a report issued last week, the city’s Department of Investigation revealed that the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), submitted false claims to the federal government showing it had conducted lead paint inspections—and that the required work hadn’t been done for years.

The scandal has now made its way up to the mayor's office, as the New York Daily News reports that Mayor Bill de Blasio was first informed of “the possibility of non-compliance” back in March of 2016. NYCHA actually notified City Hall that the agency wasn’t in compliance with local laws in April of 2016, then followed up about non compliance with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rules in July.

But last week's investigation revealed that in 2016, NYCHA commissioner Shola Olatoye falsely certified that the authority was in compliance with lead paint inspection requirements. The DOI discovered that as far back as 2012, NYCHA had not been doing the required annual inspections of the thousands of apartments that may have lead contamination.

According to the News, 55,000 apartments in NYCHA's aging buildings have potential lead paint hazards, including 4,321 that list children ages six and under as tenants. An investigation by the News also found that 202 children "associated" with public housing apartments since 2011 tested positive for higher-than-acceptable blood-lead levels.

Local Law 1 requires that all landlords in the city, including NYCHA, annually inspect all the apartments where lead paint is suspected and where children six and under live. On top of that, HUD requires all U.S. housing authorities to inspect units with possible lead-paint hazards every year, regardless of whether or not a child is a resident. But in 2012, NYCHA stopped its annual inspections as it faced mounting repair requests. From 2014 to 2016, NYCHA did not perform any annual inspections on the 55,000 apartments.

NYCHA admitted this to Mayor de Blasio after a press conference last year, when he boasted about "a very aggressive inspection and abatement program and that is certainly being carried out in the Housing Authority and has been for years." But as the News notes, "Neither de Blasio nor Olatoye amended the mayor's statement about NYCHA's 'aggressive' lead-paint inspection."

In response to the scandal, NYCHA has announced "sweeping changes" to the beleaguered, debt-burdened agency. On Friday, two senior officials resigned and another was demoted. Though Public Advocate Letitia James and other city officials have called for Olatoye to resign, Mayor de Blasio has said that she is "turning NYCHA around" and "isn’t going anywhere."

A NYCHA spokesperson gave the Wall Street Journal a statement in regards to what's next, saying the agency "has taken steps to address the underlying issues."