Tenants of a Lower East Side apartment building are not happy. Construction has subjected them to constant headaches, including hazardous levels of lead, representatives of the 210 Rivington Street Tenants Association said at a rally outside of the building today.
During 14 months of renovations, tenants have had to put up with obstructed hallways, collapsed ceilings, dust covering floors and stairs, noise at all hours, and water shut-offs, according to Brandon Kielbasa, head organizer for the Cooper Square Committee.
Residents of a building at 102 Norfolk St. — owned by the same landlord, Samy Mahfar — were subjected to approximately 3,000 times the EPA-mandated limit of lead earlier in the year.
When Seth Wandersman, a 14-year tenant at 210 Rivington Street, found out about this, he pushed for lead testing in his own building. “I realized these problems weren’t temporary,” Wandersman said, “but could stay with residents for the rest of our lives.” Now, a report from the city’s Department of Health has shown that at least one area in the building at 210 Rivington has five times the level of lead that the EPA identifies as hazardous.
According to samples taken by the Department of Health on Oct. 7, dust on the building’s second floor registered a lead concentration of 210 micrograms per square feet (the EPA identifies levels of 40 and above as hazardous).
Matthew Chachere, an attorney for Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, said that the construction permit application that Mahfar had signed indicated that nobody would be living in the building.
Tenants of the two buildings have formed The Mahfar Tenants Coalition, and have demanded the following from Mahfar:
1. When doing construction work in his buildings, Mr. Mahfar must put in place a proper lead mitigation plan that utilizes an EPA-certified abatement contractor. This would apply to all construction work going forward that poses any risk of lead exposure to tenants.
2. City agencies must better regulate existing lead laws, which are strong (on paper) but are rendered ineffective by poor on-the-ground enforcement. Additional measures must be taken to protect tenants across NYC.
A man believed by City Council Member Rosie Perez to be a representative of Mahfar’s was filming at today’s gathering, but neither he nor Mahfar would provide a comment to Bedford + Bowery. Mendez asked the man to stop filming, calling it a “form of harassment.” She said, “You coming here on behalf of the landlord and doing that, and not asking whether you can videotape, just goes to prove that Samy Mahfar is a bad actor and all his employees.”
Council Member Margaret Chin agreed with her and said, “We are calling on Samy Mahfar. Do the right thing, or else the city agency is going to go after you.”
According to the Department of Health, even small amounts of lead can cause high blood pressure, nerve disorders, and brain, kidney, and reproductive damage.