LOWER EAST SIDE — When a new landlord took over their building and began renovations last year, the tenants of a Norfolk Street building feared the construction was exposing them to lead.
Residents of 102 Norfolk St. learned an inspector had found lead levels in the building were more than 2,700 times the legal limit during an April 2014 inspection, but only after filing a Freedom of Information request last summer.
To avoid situations like this, the Department of Health launched a new lead notification procedure it hopes will increase transparency and provide timely information about inspection results to tenants.
The new rules will require inspectors to post a signs in buildings that alert residents to any hazards from renovation work. If hazards do pop up, the building owner and the contractor would have to cease construction and fix the problem before resuming.
The sign will be placed in a "conspicuous location" and include details like the date of the inspection and warnings of dust and debris containing lead. It will also inform residents that dust samples have been collected and are being tested for the metal.
Notifications also include a phone number for the agency's Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, which residents can call for more information about the inspection or to report complaints, a DOH spokesman said.
“The health and wellbeing of New Yorkers is of the utmost importance to us, and when we receive reports of unsafe work practices that might be creating a lead dust hazard, we take the matter very seriously,” said the Health Department’s first deputy commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot in a statement.
“These new procedures will add another layer of accountability for building owners to act responsibly when their buildings are being renovated.”
Brandon Kielbasa, a community organizer for the Cooper Square Committee, said the new rules were an “overdue change.”
The housing advocacy group worked with the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence to organize tenants at 102 Norfolk St., 210 Rivington St., 113 Stanton St. and 22 Spring St., which were all owned by the same landlord and were discovered to have elevated lead levels.
“We’re happy to see it,” Kielbasa said of the rule changes.