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Syracuse residents speak overwhelmingly in favor of proposed lead ordinance at public meeting

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
A public commenter at the meeting Wednesday night in council chambers.

At a public meeting Wednesday night, Syracuse residents spoke overwhelmingly in favor of a proposed lead ordinance in the city that would make the presence of lead a code violation in rental housing. 

Most of the city’s housing stock was built before 1978 and has lead-based paint. Lead poisoning, caused by ingesting or inhaling lead paint or dust in older homes, can cause irreversible cognitive and physical harm to children.

Some residents spoke about how lead poisoning has affected them personally. Oceanna Fair said the lead ordinance would be a good first step to address the problem. She takes care of her 40-year-old brother who was severely poisoned by lead in a home on the city’s south side.

“He can’t do basic things," Fair said. "We have to have someone come into his home, three to four times a week, just to do simple tasks; take a shower, cook his meals. I have to pay all his bills. This runs deep. Now, I have a granddaughter suffering from the same problem, because we didn’t take care of it 40 years ago.”

Mary Traynor is an attorney with Legal Services of Central New York. She said the lead ordinance is long overdue, but she’s concerned about enforcement.

“If you walk around the south side or west side or north side, you see visibly, the blight and the incredible code violations that are there,” Traynor said. “If we’re having our city code enforcement department run this, we really need to have some kind of monitoring.”

Council President Helen Hudson told the crowd she lived in her home on the south side with a child who had behavioral problems, and did not realize it was contaminated with lead until she sold it 30 years later.

"I was a young mother when I bought my house," Hudson said. "If I had been better educated, I might have paid closer attention."

A public comment period runs until March. The Syracuse Common Council will vote on the ordinance in April.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.