HARLEM — The city says it plans to replace toxic PCB light fixtures in schools earlier than expected after City Councilman Robert Jackson called on the state Education Department to investigate.
Jackson announced his plan at the shared Success Academy/ P.S./I.S. 123 in Harlem, where a burst light bulb released a toxic cloud of chemicals Tuesday and sent 11 people to the hospital and caused the school to be evacuated.
The city is facing a lawsuit from the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest because it says it will take 10 years to remove PCB from up to 1,200 schools.
"The city has determined it can complete light fixture replacement projects in the remaining 645 buildings well before the previously announced timetable of 2021," said Elizabeth Thomas, deputy director of communications for the New York City Law Department. "Due to ongoing mediation, we cannot provide more information at this time, but will continue to update you on developments."
Jackson said the effort to find and remove the PCBs does not align with the urgency of the issue. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, PCBs have "adverse reproductive, developmental, and endocrine effects."
"The DOE’s ‘comprehensive’ 10-year plan to improve the...quality of our schools is absolutely absurd and unacceptable. These incidents demonstrate that these problems must be fixed now,” said Jackson, chair of the education committee. “We cannot afford to gamble with the health and well-being of our 1.1 million schoolchildren or the teachers, principals and other staff that work in city school buildings.”
The city previously announced a plan in October to spend $300 million to make repairs to 100 schools as part of an effort to speed up the remediation of the PCB issue.
Jackson also criticized Success Academy, run by former city councilwoman and education chair Eva Moskowitz. The school has come under criticism for removing the PCB-laden light fixtures without DOE approval.
The incident Tuesday marks the second time this month that a light fixture has caused an issue at a school shared by Success Academy with a DOE school.