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Buffalo introduces 11-point plan to remove lead-based paint hazards

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The City of Buffalo, in partnership with Erie County and other entities, is unveiling a new program to rid the city of a serious health hazard, one that has seriously endangered many children.

The new Lead Hazard Control Program is an 11-point strategy that Mayor Byron Brown says will "legislate, collaborate, educate and remediate." Among the most significant strategies is to amend the City Charter, City Code and Rental Registry to hold landlords more accountable for properties where lead-based paint remains present.

"All property managers that manage property in the City of Buffalo will be required to be lead-safe certified," Brown said. "The city's environmental testing firm will do lead testing upon referral from city building inspectors."

City officials will also conduct concentrated code enforcement efforts in zip codes where there are known high percentages of lead-based paint. Those zip codes include 14211, 14213 and 14215.

Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo president and CEO Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker speaks during a news conference on Buffalo's new comprehensive lead hazard plan.

Although lead was banned from from use in household paint back in 1978, much of Buffalo's older housing stock is still covered with it. Dr. Raul Vazquez of Urban Family Practice in Buffalo says the risks of exposure are especially high among young people in Buffalo's Black and Latino communities.

"Lead's been a problem since I started practicing," Dr. Vasquez said. "I think we're beginning to see just the tip of the iceberg. I think once testing takes place, and you start to do some environmental checks, you're going to find we have more of a problem than we think."

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says the local lead exposure problem is already more serious than the one in Flint, Michigan which made national headlines.

"Unfortunately there are more children with higher blood-lead levels in the City of Buffalo and other parts of Erie County - it's not just a city issue - than in Flint, Michigan," Poloncarz said. 

Partners with the City of Buffalo include the Erie County Health Department, Buffalo Public Schools and Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo's Green & Healthy Homes Initiative.

Buffalo School Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash says the district will make its facilities available to Erie County Health officials for testing and education initiatives.

"We have over 18,000 families, 42,000 children, that need to be communicated on a regular basis in a whole host of languages other than English, to make sure they're aware of where they can go to get ongoing support."

Buffalo School Superintendent Kriner Cash discusses how the school district will participate.

The 11 points of the City of Buffalo's Lead Hazard Control Program (including anticipated start times for each initiative) are as follows:

1. $250,000 will be provided annually for lead issues through raising the Rental Registration Fee, additionally $205,000 in Community Development Block Grants will be provided. (Rental Registration bills mailed in January 2017, fees in hand by April 1, 2017, CDBG funds are available by July 1, 2016)

2. Funds will be provided in partnership with CDBG, HOME, Rental Registration, GHHI, CFGB, Erie County and the New York State Attorney General’s office to remediate at least 150 units, annually. (Mid-September 2016)

3. Strengthen City Charter, City Code and Rental Registry to require landlord lead certification. (Mid-July 2016)

4. Certificates of occupancy will not be granted to dwellings with lead-based paint hazards. (Mid-July 2016)  

5. Property managers will be required to be lead-safe certified. (Mid-July 2016)

6. UNYSE will do lead testing upon referral from city building inspectors. (Immediately available)

7. BNET will conduct concentrated code enforcement in zip codes with the highest percentage of lead paint hazards: 14211, 14213 and 14215. (June 1, 2016)

8. The city's 311 phone service will have a dedicated “lead line” take calls about lead paint concerns from city residents (July 1, 2016)

9. Lead education will be provided on city website, in user fee bills, during clean sweeps, translated in various languages, and on public access television and city building permit applications. (Begins across various platforms starting July 1, 2016)

10. Collaboration will be increased with Erie County, the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and Buffalo Public Schools. (Immediately)

11. Buffalo MBE, WBE, Section 3 and small businesses will be trained to become lead certified. (Fall 2016 or earlier based course offering availability)

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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