Coney Island’s lead poisoning problem surfaces at City Council hearing

Photo by John McCarten/NY City Council

The issue of elevated lead levels in Coney Island arose during the City Council’s Committee on Public Housing hearing on Tuesday, as Councilmember Mark Treyger grilled NYCHA’s chair and the Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services amid dysfunction and inconsistencies in the city’s handling of lead testing.

The hearing followed a Reuters report detailing dangerously high levels of lead among children tested in Coney Island, as well as a Department of Investigation report revealing that NYCHA failed to conduct lead inspections.

In response, Treyger is seeking an immediate investment in capital and operations funding to NYCHA to ensure health and safety issues are properly addressed.

“The claim that lead levels have dropped in the City of New York… but how do we know that that’s true if the City can’t get its story straight about lead testing?” Treyger said in front of NYCHA chair Shola Olatoye and Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio. “We will not accept fake news from the White House, and we will not accept fake news from our city government, either.”

Treyger, noticeably irritated by the latest developments, slammed the city for telling HUD on the phone that they were non-compliant, but later telling them in writing that they were compliant. He highlighted the severity of the problem in Coney Island.

“in a recent Reuters report, it showed elevated blood levels for children in Coney Island,” he noted. “In a study of 155 children, more than 10 percent had elevated results — more than double the levels in Flint, Michigan. What are you doing to help our families, particularly in my district as well in Coney Island?”

City officials countered by touting their lead testing surveillance system, through which they claim to examine blood tests daily and work with families to identify all possible exposures. They also claim to seek out pockets of the city where lead exposure is an issue and follow through with targeted interventions.

Treyger said he hopes his call for an investigation will lead to more answers.

“Ultimately, this investigation will produce an explanation of how NYCHA came to abdicate its responsibility to conduct lead inspections, and why the agency chose to lie in its reports to HUD,” he said. “However, the root problem facing us is decades of systemic disinvestment in the maintenance and capital needs of our public housing stock… In conjunction with independent oversight and monitoring, we need to make major investments to better protect the health, safety, and quality of life of our NYCHA residents.”

About Matt Tracy 159 Articles
Matt is a reporter with experience covering neighborhood news, politics, sports, and more. Send news tips to

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