By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Eager to please the RSA and to appease the mayor's office, which wants weaker lead-paint rules in part because many city-owned buildings are affected, Vallone rushed his measure, citing a June 30 deadline on a court-ordered settlement. Goldberg, however, points out that the plaintiffs in that settlement offered to extend the deadline until October 15 to accommodate debate.
"They want to orchestrate a crisis, but it's not real," says Matthew Chachère, staff attorney for the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, which represents plaintiffs in a long-standling class-action suit regarding lead poisoning. "If they felt good about what they were doing, they wouldn't do it this way."
While politicians play with lead-paint laws, children continue to be poisoned. At any given time, there are about 30,000 lead-poisoned children under the age of seven citywide. Each year, between 1200 and 1500 more become poisoned. Lead poisoning is entirely preventable but insidious if not halted; symptoms are subtle, but effects are severe and long-lasting. Lead-poisoned children can suffer central nervous system damage, learning disabilities, and, in extreme cases, coma and even death.
Most lead-paint poisoned children live in the city's "lead belt," with some of the highest percentages found in Fort Greene, Bushwick, Jamaica, Mott Haven, and Washington Heights. A 1996 health department chart shows that more than 80 percent of poisoned children are black and Latino; only 6 percent white. "If this chart were reversed," says Goldberg, "we would have settled this issue years ago."