Health Dangers of Melrose Housing in the Bronx

This article is part of our larger investigation to highlight lead exposure issues across the nation.

It’s no secret African Americans at greater risk of health threats than their typically more wealthy white American counterpart. It’s been shown repeatedly.

Inner-city schools historically have larger African American populations than suburban ones. They are continuously shown to have problems such as significant exposure to lead paint and the many consequences. Structural issues and how FEMA handled Hurricane Katrina have also been more likely to affect the African American community in New Orleans.

We need to address these underlying racial tendencies in society. The sooner we can avoid unnecessary lead exposure, the better. Kids are very at risk.

Melrose Housing isn’t alone

Melrose housing in the Bronx isn’t alone a hub for the potential lead exposure to low-income families. It is a very well-reported case, which is why we have chosen to highlight it.

The sad thing about the matter is that the NYC authorities are very aware of the area’s vast number of problems. The problems continue to persist.

Here are a bunch of relevant articles to show what has been done to address the known issue in the Bronx, along with the relevant news articles:

  • November 20, 2017. NY Daily News publishes an article about Sixto Martinez. He is a man who lives in Melrose Houses with his family. It is exposed that damaged paint can easily be found, although NYCHA workers are supposed to conduct inspections in order to prevent this. The harmful paint dust is accumulating in the place that he has called his home for more than a decade.
  • February 27, 2018. The New York Times publishes an article on a lawsuit representing 400,000 living in public housing accusing NYCHA of being negligent. They are not providing them with hot water and heat, filing false reports and not protecting them again deteriorating lead paint.
  • April 6, 2018. Patch publishes an article about NYCHA workers supposed to check for lead in apartment where they thought there previously was none present. This includes working on two apartment complexes previously not thought to be contaminated with the paint.
  • January 28, 2019. Fox5 publishes an article on the new program called LeadFreeNYC. It will review every single apartment in public housing, as well as adress the ones affected to make it right.
  • July 31, 2019. Chalkbeat publishes an article that highlights that more than 900 NYC elementary school classrooms have been inspected and contain damaged lead paint. The exposure starts becoming damaging to kids. Nearly 38% of school building built before 1985 were found to contain deteriorating lead paint.
  • August 2, 2019. Welcome2TheBronx publishes an article. It talks about the same findings as were published by Chalkbeat, highlighting that 90 school buildings tested positive.
  • Feb 1, 2020. Spectrum News publishes an article about the continued issues with public housing and their deteriorating paint. The article additionally mentions how roughly 1,000 children in public housing were affected in the 4 year span between 2012 and 2016. It is also specified how this is especially a problem in the Bronx where a lot of the building are older.
  • February 11, 2020. The Real Deal publishes an article on additional laws enacted that will affect landlords that don’t have their papers in order. The various bills affect landlords, apartments built pre-1960 where a child resides. The article points out that there are still a bunch of flaws and it is unsure as to how information will be distributed. One of the bills encourages contractors to keep their documentation in order in order to stay in compliance with already existing legislation.

Here at Check4Lead, we’re skeptical about how NYC deals with its apparent problem. It is not that existing legislation has been missing but rather that enforcement isn’t being done as well as it should be.

The EPA had already instated the necessary legislation in 2008 and later amended it in 2010 and 2011. We’re continuing to see problems related to implementation more than 10 years after things should start getting in order. Our suggestion is added to encourage the enforcement of sanctions and penalties for non-compliant contractors.

Biggest social issues affecting kids in 2020 – environmental racism

There’s no denying that certain parts of the population are especially vulnerable when it comes to a range of different things. The ones experiencing the effects the most from exposure to lead are the youngest members of our society. One of the biggest social issues that affect kids is that minorities and people living in poorer parts of the country are more likely to be exposed. They’ll be more likely to experience significant and damaging lead levels than others in more affluent neighborhoods.

It’s one of those cases of environmental racism where communities with fewer means are less likely to address environmental concerns. It’s like the inclusion of paint in older buildings. We often associate environmental racism with something foreign that only happens in other countries. The truth is that we may not necessarily be exporting waste material into the poorer communities. Still, those are often the last ones where things like lead exposure are addressed. Those communities are also likely to be the parts of town that contain more industrial manufacturing. This may be massively polluting the air. It further negatively affects the health of the poorest parts of our population.

Our stance: Housing as a human right

We are firm believers that securing housing for individuals is a human right. It is of utmost importance that the housing provided won’t cause health consequences for its inhabitants. This is an option made available to the most exposed part of public housing. It simply isn’t fair that their entrance into this world ends up being defined by the possibility of severe health consequences. Inadequate housing is to blame, and safe housing should be provided to those most in need.

New York is nowhere near the only city or state in the country. Those already the most vulnerable end up living in very dangerous housing. Another notable example is Baltimore’s slums. It has been covered over at The Conversation, where lead poisoning is also a major issue.

The issue

Exposure to lead is a major problem that you may not yet know. Unfortunately, not enough has been done to raise awareness on the topi. We are not saying that nothing has been done, but we are saying that more could be done and more should be done. Many different states around the country have significant landlord laws that include making the housing provided livable to live in. We surely do not believe a rental house with any deteriorating dangerous lead paint should be considered livable. The only reasonable thing to do in such situations is to use the proper lead test kits. Test whether or not there is a problem with the materials used. Then have it addressed if there is. While all deteriorating paint doesn’t contain lead, there is a fairly high chance it does if the housing was built before 1978. The risk of it only increases the older the home is. This material may have had beneficial attributes that helped provide the paint. It doesn’t warrant people being exposed to the material today.

It’s the same way a landlord has to deal with mold if it is there. We believe it should be a human right that landlords must abate lead and ensure the residents’ safety. It may not be an issue that is quite as easy to spot as mold growth. It sure provides negative health consequences if it isn’t being dealt with.

The state you live in may be more or less relaxed, ensuring landlords do their fair share in providing a safe means for your family to live in. Still, at least we applaud the city of New York for standing up to the task and taking serious actions on the topic. It’s important to hold landlords accountable for exposing their tenants to the dangers they are exposing. Ensure that rental units are getting the treatment they need. We have unfortunately seen for too long that they haven’t lived up to the information requirements instituted by the EPA.

Suppose you live in a different state than New York. In that case, we encourage you to reach out to your government officials and have them look into taking similar actions. While the EPA is doing what they can, you as a citizen can do a lot by encouraging your elected officials to address lead exposure. Public housing is one of the places where already disadvantaged families have a significant risk of being exposed.

Kids are especially at risk

The sad thing is that public housing may be a temporary thing that a family chooses to live in until the financial situation allows them to move out of it. Traditionally families may have an especially tight financial situation when kids are young or on their way into this life. Public housing provides an affordable way to get a roof over your head without realizing the probable health dangers. Again, we encourage you to reach out to government officials and look into the house.

Exposure to this material and its ingestion will have lasting consequences on both you and your kids, who are more at risk. Prolonged or acute exposure can lead to various things, including developmental delay and cognitive decline.

After reading this article, our recommendation is to determine when you made the house or building you live in. If it was before 1978, you should take action to have it checked for the lead when the material was practically banned from inclusion in residential house paints.

Maybe you have figured out if your house was built before that. Look around to see where you can find deteriorating paint and have a landlord or contractor come by to deal with it.

It’s not worth risking your child experiencing developmental delays and other side effects from unnecessary exposure. There are many side effects.

Is it safe to live in a place that has lead paint on the walls?

The simple fact that lead is present in the paint isn’t the dangerous part that families need to concern themselves with. However, the issue stems from the fact that most families aren’t simply living where lead is included in the walls. Most families that live in this sort of housing live in a place where maintenance has been minimal over the last many decades.

You often find that public housing proves to be very poorly kept. The lead in the walls isn’t the lead, but when the lead starts leaving the walls. It ends up in a situation where you may be ingesting it. It will happen when the walls start to deteriorate or other damage to the paint.

The issue with most public housing is simply that the necessary work isn’t being put in. We have very strict laws that concern average landlords. Commonly, the most vulnerable people are being forgotten about. It is not just that they are forgotten about education and the distinct possibilities that most families have. They are also forgotten about when it comes to ensuring safe housing is provided for them to live in. The idea of public housing is great.

It is also important to ensure that the housing continues to be a safe place for people to live. Ensure it isn’t just a current source of toxins for its inhabitants.

Many people who live in public housing wish to afford to live elsewhere. The least we can do is ensure that it lives up to the same safety requirements that private landlords must provide. The EPA’s resources should be made readily available to inhabitants of public housing. Inform them about some of the dangers of living in housing where the necessary safety precautions aren’t being met.

Follow the timeline that we posted earlier in the article. You can see that private landlords are being held to a higher standard than the people making public housing available. Why is that the case? Why are private landlords required to provide documentation showing that they abide by the relevant RRP regulation? It seems hypocritical when people in public housing don’t have a landlord that provides the same level of protection.

Does the government have your interests at heart?

You would imagine that the government was the first to ensure that safe living conditions were provided in the available housing. More often than not, that is not the case.

We understand that governments may have a limited budget that they are operating with. Maintenance needed for this type of housing may be limited. That does not justify that a group that is already vulnerable is also suffering due to poor budgeting. If the politicians wanted to, they could set the necessary money aside to deal with the issue and ensure safe living conditions.

Suppose a private landlord isn’t willing to remedy the problems with the unit they are renting out. In that case, there are ways to address this. You can be sure that the necessary housing unit would take swift action to punish the landlord appropriately.

Why isn’t the same standard be upheld when it comes to housing that the government is providing? It is not whether enough money is available to address these safety concerns. It is rather a question of whether they prioritize these issues. The sad reality is that it isn’t being prioritized.

Why is it that the people that need it the most are continuously being the ones that are forgotten about? Deteriorating lead paint in these old public housing buildings is one of the biggest social issues we face. It means that people growing up there are already behind even before starting.

What we encourage you to do

We encourage you to take action on this issue. We do need your help, however. We are willing to work with whoever we can to create awareness around the issue, but we can’t do it alone.

We are willing to donate one case of 48 lead tests for every news article discussing the issue. The tests will be sent to a relevant person who lives or works at these public housing buildings. We want to help spread awareness of the severity of the issue to affect some politicians enough to care about the topic hopefully.

Do you live in a city where public housing is being affected by this issue? Do you have any contact with any local newspapers that would be willing to print a story on the issue? Maybe you can put us in contact with someone willing to look into the story and have them publish about this issue. If you can get a journalist to publish a story on this, we’ll be willing to reward you with a case of tests. Otherwise, we will send it to the relevant public housing building of your choice.  

Other resources

We would also like to draw attention to a couple of different resources that we have made available on this website. We realize that you might have initially landed on the website because you searched Melrose Housing. This website often appears for terms related to it. Still, there are so many other resources on this website that you may also be interested in exploring.

For instance, we mentioned how different states have different laws concerning the responsibilities of landlords. We may not yet have resources available for all the states. We have made a pretty extensive resource on California that you can readjust. Go ahead and press the highlighted link. California has traditionally been a state that goes first to ensure the safety of tenants.

The chances are that your state may have additional requirements besides the guidelines instituted by the EPA. We encourage you to research what those are, too. On an ending note, we also want to draw attention to 2 other articles we have written. It includes one on illegal landlord actions a general one.

Some of the stuff in there may still differ from the situation in your specific state, but it will help give you an idea of your rights. Secondly, we want to draw your attention to our resource reporting a landlord. While we wish that won’t become necessary, you will be better equipped in a situation where it might be required.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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