1999-07-17 / Letters

Stabile Misleads Public

Dear Editor;

In the Wave of July 10 (p. 25), you report: "Stabile Says: Lead Poison Law Will Protect Kids." The headline and the article itself are dismayingly misleading. Councilman Alfonso Stabile did not tell your reporter that the Guiliani administration, which supports this bill, could not find a single medical or public health expert in this city or any other who would approve of it. The exception was the administration’s own person, Commissioner of Health Neal Cohen, an ally of the Mayor and, in this instance, of speaker Vallone.

This "new initiative", hailed by Councilman Stabile, is designed not "to protect the city’s most precious asset, its children," as he claims, but to protect the city’s most powerful lobbyists, the landlord organizations and the Rent Stabilization Association.

These influential puppetmasters have the ear of Mayor Guiliani and pull the strings that control the political positions of speaker Vallone. Thus, the speaker has, at their behest, refused for two years to schedule a public hearing on Councilman Stanley Michel’s excellent and truly child-protecting Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act , Intro. 205, which was co-sponsored by 35 of the 51 Council members.

Instead, Speaker Vallone crafted legislation that was objectionable and indefensible: it guts existing Department of Health safety rules for repairs, encourages shoddy work practices over safe ones, provides no penalties for non-compliance with even minimal safety standards, permits violations to stay in place legally for as long as 226 days from the date of a tenant’s complaint and much else. The common sense evidence that this is a bad bill is:

It has been opposed by every expert in the field of lead poisoning prevention who was afforded an opportunity to respond, and opposed as well by a wide spectrum of public health, medical, tenant, environmental, civil rights, education, community, parent, religious, political, and labor organizations.

It was rushed through in the dead of night with no opportunity for meaningful public review (it wasn’t even assigned a number until the day of the vote.)

The legislation violates Vallone’s campaign promise not to "weaken the laws that protect children from the dangers of lead poisoning" as well as Stabile’s written and spoken "commitment" to the safety and well-being of children.

It must be remembered that lead is a neurotoxin; it damages the cells of the brain, thus interfering with a child’s ability to think, to learn, and to be creative. It is estimated that 30,000 children in New York City have elevated blood levels. Removing the source of contamination reduces the child’s blood lead level, but does not reverse the damage already incurred. It is critical that measures be adopted that will prevent exposure of children to the toxic effects of lead. The bill that Councilman Stabile voted for, and that he praised last week in The Wave, it is not a prevention bill. Neither does the promise of more "safe houses", one of the sops offered by the Administration, speak to the issue of prevention.

Lead poisoning is a preventable disease. It is the obligation of the leaders of a civilized society, which our Mayor claims to want, to legislate on behalf of children, and not on behalf of landlords.

EVELYN MAUSS

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