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Syracuse finally makes lead hazard a code violation in rental properties

Wayne Marshall
via Flickr

After years of effort, the Syracuse Common Council has finally made the presence of lead a code violation in rental housing in the city. The Council voted unanimously on the ordinance. It will allow the city to take a proactive approach to addressing lead poisoning in children.

Councilor Joe Driscoll has been working on this issue since 2017.

“When we started this journey, we didn’t think it would take this long,” Driscoll said. “As the legislation developed, we realized how complicated it was.”

The new law allows code inspectors to cite the potential hazard of lead in dust and chipping paint. Driscoll said it lays the groundwork for reducing lead poisoning.

“So far, we have a reactive approach to dealing with lead poisoning in Syracuse and Onondaga County,” he said. “We see a child who has been poisoned and we look backwards to see where that poisoning may have come from. With this legislation, we’ll be able to proactively look at the units, look at the properties, and determine if there is a lead hazard there; hopefully, getting to it before the child is poisoned.”

Ingesting or inhaling lead paint or dust in older homes, can cause irreversible brain and physical damage to children.

“It’s a huge problem,” Driscoll said.

In a statement, Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh commended Driscoll and the Council’s work. The goal is to start testing for lead this fall. Walsh said the city is ready to hire a lead paint program coordinator, continue getting inspectors certified and identify a testing lab. But with budget cuts looming, and without direct aid from the federal government, Walsh said the timing of fully implementing the program is in question.

Read Walsh’s full statement below.

“I commend the Syracuse Common Council on its passage today of the Lead Abatement and Control ordinance. This is a historic step forward for the health and safety of our children and families, especially those in low income areas who deserve greater protection against the threat of lead poisoning to their health. In particular, I want to acknowledge the tireless work of 5th District Councilor Joe Driscoll who made it a personal mission to get this legislation introduced and passed. I am also thankful to the Central New York Community Foundation for its private sector leadership in addressing lead hazards. Our Administration will continue to work with the Council and our community partners in implementing the new legislation. We have the resources ready to bring on a lead paint program coordinator; continue to get our inspectors certified; and identify a laboratory to be our testing partner. Our goal is to be ready to start testing this fall, but without direct aid from the federal government as soon as possible, the fiscal impact of COVID-19 on city government will affect the timing of full implementation of the program.”

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.