A disturbing epidemic of mold growing in public housing apartments throughout New York City has prompted local legislators to take action and propose a bill that would impose new standards of mold remediation.
According to the Observer, the bill is in response to a growing number of reports from public housing residents that the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is hiring unlicensed parties to perform mold removal at low prices.
The NYCHA is accused of sending in unskilled workers to deal with mold remediation, an important and complex task that can lead to a host of health effects if performed improperly. Experts say that the presence of mold has been linked to coughing, throat irritation, and the development of asthma in children.
“Anytime building materials are affected by moisture, mold can begin growing on surfaces and in areas not visible. Moisture also causes building material damage. Prompt water mitigation will stop mold from becoming worse and save hundreds to thousands of dollars in repairs. Contacting a mold professional immediately will make a big difference in the outcome of mold growth in a home or business. Professional mold remediation companies follow strict guidelines that protect employees, occupants and the property during mold remediation services. Missing, skipping or covering up a mold problem can leave occupants breathing in higher than normal amounts of mold spores long after the job is done. Hiring a professional is a must when it comes to mold.”
–Brian Thurston, Certified Mold Remediation Specialist, Pro-Clean Services
Ritchie Torres, a Bronx City Councilman and Chair of the Public Housing Committee, sponsored the bill in part because he experienced the ill effects of mold as a child. He developed asthma while living in public housing, and dealt with mold again in his later years after Hurricane Sandy caused widespread property damage throughout the region.
Torres noted that state certification requirements for mold remediation exempts public properties like NYCHA developments, which constitutes a fundamental injustice towards public housing residents who don’t have the means to fix mold problems themselves.
“We’re here because we believe the epidemic of mold in New York City is a public health crisis that requires a response from the City Council,” Torres said while introducing the bill at City Hall in front of public housing residents and supporters.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of these allegations against the NYCHA’s mold remediation tactics was the tendency of unskilled workers to “paint over” the mold instead of actually treating it.
“They plastered over and painted it again. That was in February of this year. The mold is starting to come back,” said public housing resident Michele Holmes, who added that she has experienced mold problems in her apartment since the 1990s.
According to the New York Daily News, the accusations of workers painting over mold was a main factor in Torres’s decision to propose the new bill.
“NYCHA has what I would call a whack-a-mole approach to mold removal. You hit the mold in one place, and then it pops up somewhere else,” said Torres. “It’s no longer sufficient to simply paint over the problem.”
The Housing Authority released a statement saying that they are interested in helping Torres and other legislators finalize the proposal and improve mold remediation tactics in their buildings.