Judge approves plan to clean up toxic mold in NYCHA apartments

A broader plan is expected in the next 2 weeks

An empty and moldy stairwell stands in a public housing building in Brooklyn (Credit: Getty Images)
An empty and moldy stairwell stands in a public housing building in Brooklyn (Credit: Getty Images)

After rejecting a broader plan that would’ve addressed several different issues in the city’s public housing stock, a federal judge has given the green light to a narrower plan that only targets toxic mold.

Manhattan Federal Judge William Pauley on Thursday approved a plan that will address mold issues in New York City Housing Authority apartments, the New York Daily News reported. The judge gave NYCHA and prosecutors two weeks to come back with another plan that will address more issues, like broken elevators and lead paint removal in public housing.

Earlier this month, Pauley turned down a consent decree between NYCHA and Mayor Bill de Blasio and federal prosecutors, which would’ve established a federal monitor to oversee NYCHA’s compliance with health and safety rules. At the time, the judge said the decree had “fatal procedural flaws.”

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Thursday’s agreement sprang from a failed lawsuit settled in 2013. Metro Industrial Area Foundation, a housing advocacy nonprofit, had sued NYCHA, claiming it had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to remove mold from apartments where tenants had respiratory issues such as asthma. As part of a settlement agreement, NYCHA had pledged to clean up the mold. But the housing authority has failed to do so.

The agreement approved by Pauley enforces this settlement, setting a strict cleanup deadline and appointing a “mold specialist,” a data analyst and an ombudsman to handle tenant complaints. These jobs are expected to cost NYCHA as much as $500,000 a year.

“Ultimately these modifications will better serve the underlying goals of the Consent decree of ensuring that NYCHA effectively remediates mold in its apartments,” Pauley wrote. [NYDN] — Kathryn Brenzel