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Remove Hazardous Lead Paint From FDR Overpass, Painters Union Says

Remove Hazardous Lead Paint From FDR Overpass, Painters Union Says

Originally published at DNA Info

LOWER EAST SIDE — Community members, legislators and trade union representatives gathered beneath the FDR Drive on Thursday to demand officials take action to remove chipping lead paint they say threatens health and safety on the East River waterfront.

A local branch of the Union of Painters and Allied Trades rallied on South Street between Catherine and Market slips to call on both the city and state transportation departments to remove the toxic paint, which peels off in flakes from the 60-year-old overpass and onto the ground where seniors and children walk and play, a union rep said.

“This is a public safety issue,” said Davon Lomax, political director of District Council 9 of the international union. “We’re calling on DOT to stand up for the Lower East Side — to stand up for them and their families and to take action.”

The falling paint chips pose a hazard to community members below if inhaled or otherwise ingested, explained Lomax, who noted children playing along the waterfront could touch the paint and ingest the lead dust.

The effects of lead poisoning can be devastating, including damage to the brain, kidneys, nerves, and blood, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Union members’ concerns were echoed by community resident Trever Holland, president of the 82 Rutgers Tenant Association, and State Assembly candidate Yuh-Line Niou.

“Neighborhood folks are biking, eating, and hanging out around here, and we have lead paint literally falling down,” said Niou, who is running for the 65th District seatcurrently occupied by Alice Cancel.

“We need to make sure the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, and the places are we playing, working, and living are safe.”

Concern surrounding the dilapidated state of the decades-old overpass is nothing new — health experts in 1995 found high levels of lead in paint chips from the columns under the FDR overpass near 23rd Street, the New York Times reported, though officials disputed the findings at the time.

Representatives for the city Department of Transportation said the overpass falls under the jurisdiction of the state DOT and declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for the state DOT said the overpass, along with all bridges under the department’s jurisdiction, is inspected at least every two years and was deemed safe at its last inspection in Aug. 2014, but will be inspected again before the end of this month.