After it was revealed over 800 children have been exposed to high amounts of lead due to poor living conditions, members of the United States House of Representatives demanded the federal government do something about it.
Five U.S. Congressman and members of the New York City Council gathered on the steps of City Hall to ask the federal government for $70 billion to improve conditions in the New York City Housing Authority. The representatives called their plan the “better deal.”
The press conference was in response to a July report from the Department of Health that showed 820 children younger than 6-years-old that live in NYCHA were found to have higher levels of lead in their blood between 2012 and 2016.
The children that positive for lead levels of 5 to 9 micrograms of deciliter, those children who tested positive had a letter sent to their parents alerting them of the levels and what they can do to further prevent exposure.
“We are here on behalf of the residents we represent. It is a scandal for the conditions these people have been forced to live in years and year and decade after decade,” said U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jefferies.
Jefferies and other representatives in attendance called upon the federal government to allocate $70 billion of the federal budget to improve NYCHA, something Jefferies said is agreed upon from all sides of the political spectrum.
NYCHA is the largest public housing authority in the United States with 1 and 14 residents of the city living in public housing.
“We are simply saying is that a substantial amount of money in the trillion-dollar budget goes to public housing,” he said.
In response to critics of giving NYCHA more money after failing to improve conditions in the past, the representatives said steps will be taken to ensure the money is used to actually help the residents, such as adding a court-appointed monitor and other forms of checks and balances for the money.
“We are in the midst of the battle of a generation,” said U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke.
Clarke said the issue goes beyond one of just money but has become an issue of human dignity. Beyond being exposed to lead paint, residents of NYCHA have to experience issues such as not having gas in their buildings and having large amounts of trash present in the complexes.
“Public housing was a place in this town for many generations where upward trajectory was possible and was a part of the American dream,” she said.
That dream has been replaced with a fight for better conditions, and the representatives are calling for bipartisan legislation to get these changes enacted.
“What is going on in New York is not only unacceptable but immoral,” U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez said, “Today we are here to recognize the role the Federal government plays in providing a safety net.”
Velazquez accused Republicans of being the roadblock to the finding for NYCHA, from the Trump administration down to the Republicans in Congress.
“Republicans want to zero-out,” she said, “We want to do the opposite.”