A Lower East Side landlord is continuing to leave tenants and their families open to toxic lead dust exposure.
Residents of 102 Norfolk Street say their building has been undergoing renovations and demolition work in recent months—work that a City inspector says has exposed them to lead concentration as high as 110000 micrograms per square foot on a half landing sill, almost 450 times higher than permissible.
Raised levels of lead exposure can lead to seizures, anemia and hypertension, amongst other serious complications.
The Health Department inspector, who was denied access to the building in April and had to return with the NYPD, noted that "Sixteen dust wipe samples were tested above EPA hazard level guidelines for lead."
The EPA’s website states that “lead is considered a hazard when equal to or exceeding 40 micrograms of lead in dust per square foot on floors, 250 micrograms of lead in dust per square foot on interior window sills.”
102 Norfolk, which also houses the popular "speakeasy" The Back Room, has 34 open violations listed on the Department of Housing Preservation & Development's website including peeling lead-based paint, defective window guards, blocked fire escapes, and missing/defective carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.
In July, discussions with Samy Mahfar, a partner of SMA Equities, which bought the building in March, led tenants to believe that their issues would be resolved. But the problems persisted, with more Department of Health and Mental Hygiene inspections taking place at the LES building. A notice of violation was issued on July 28, with construction dust littering six levels of the building.
Months went by and the renovations continued to kick up toxic dust, most recently on September 5, after Mahfar had told the residents in August that there would be no more demolition until he had come up with a better plan to handle the air pollution.
Mahfar's inaction spurred Council Member Margaret Chin, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, State Senator Daniel Squadron, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, to pen a letter to Mahfar expressing their concern, and taking him to task for other properties falling into disrepair in the area, referring to 102 Norfolk as just “one of the many buildings you own that has exhibited problems due to your neglect.”
“Tenants at 102 Norfolk Street have faced extremely difficult living conditions amid neglect by Mr. Mahfar, as well as dangerous construction he continues to undertake within the building. This has resulted in unsafe lead exposure for the tenants of 102 Norfolk," says Sam Spokony, a representative for Council Member Chin. "Elected officials are now sending a strong message to Mr. Mahfar that he must be more accountable for his actions and more open to placing the needs of his tenants first."
Mahfar told DNAinfo that the lead dust was “not an ongoing issue."
“That was only one day and then this was all cleaned up," he said.
Officials have asked that demolition work cease until a safe and transparent construction plan is agreed upon.