TAKING THE LEAD ON LEAD

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Forget banjos. The latest round of dueling bills to fight lead poisoning will heat up this Monday morning on the steps of City Hall. That’s when the New York City Coalition to End Lead Poisoning (NYCELP) will join with 22 physicians, several nonprofit housing developers and Public Advocate Mark Green to demand City Council action on a bill the coalition helped craft with Councilman Stanley Michels.

Thirty-three councilmembers supported the bill when it was introduced April 30, but since then Deputy Majority Leader Archie Spigner has proposed alternative legislation that has broad landlord support. Neither bill has yet come up for a hearing, and the mayor’s position remains unclear.

The Michels/NYCELP bill would require landlords to repair peeling paint and other hazardous lead conditions within strict time limits, and to remove or cover up all lead paint on window and door frames when an apartment is vacated. It would also require strict adherence to Department of Health abatement guidelines, and would apply to schools, daycare centers and playgrounds in addition to housing. Spigner’s proposal is reportedly far more lax, but copies of his bill are not yet available and the councilman’s office refused to comment.

On Monday, NYCELP is issuing a resolution signed by 75 religious, civic, low-income housing development and tenant organizations, as well as dozens of physicians and other health professionals.

“It will evidence community support and medical community support,” said Mark Colon of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “It will demonstrate that this bill is reasonable.”

The stakes for passing a new law remain high. Each year, 2,000 new cases of lead poisoning crop up in the city and more go unreported because many children are never screened for lead. “It’s a completely preventable problem,” Colon said.