With 94% Council Support, Asthma Bill Must be Passed to Protect NYC Tenants
For Immediate Release
June 13, 2017
Brooke Havlik, 212-961-1000 ext. 320 / 574.849.8576, firstname.lastname@example.org
Coalition urges Mayor and Speaker to take immediate action on healthier housing
NEW YORK, NY – The Coalition for Asthma-Free Homes brought together NYC Council Members, residents, environmental justice advocates, labor representatives, medical experts, and legal counsel today on the steps of City Hall to urge elected officials to take bold action on asthma and health inequality through the passage of the Asthma-Free Housing Act (Intro 385B). The proposed legislation has sponsorship from 48 of the 51 Council Members, and the support of Public Advocate Tish James. A hearing on the bill was held in the Committee on Housing and Buildings after today’s press conference. The bill must now be passed through the committee and introduced for a vote by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverto.
The bill would require landlords to annually inspect and correct indoor allergen hazards, including mold, pests, and underlying symptoms that may cause these conditions, such as water leaks and pest entryways (holes and cracks), in the homes of residents diagnosed with asthma, COPD, or lung cancer.
At today’s hearing, Chen Yo Chi, a Community Organizer at Chinatown Tenants Union at CAAAV – Organizing Asian Communities shared the story of an impacted Chinatown resident, “Every time she brings the issue up with her building manager, they take plaster and cover up the mold. This does not really address the leaking pipe, and over time, the mold has spread to other areas of the wall and now small maggots and flies are everywhere in the apartment. Not only does this cause mental stress but it also leads to a decline in the quality of air.”
PREVENTING ASTHMA HAS CLEAR BENEFITS
“For 10 years I have worked with advocates for passage of the Asthma Free Housing Act which is now known as Intro 385B. Asthma has a debilitating effect on an individual’s’ quality of life. Pests and mold are asthma triggers that produces poor indoor air quality and, in New York City, there are approximately one million Individuals who have been diagnosed with asthma,” said Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, District 2, a lead sponsor of the bill alongside CM Corey Johnson and CM Ritchie Torres.
CM Mendez went on to say, “A report just released by the Independent Budget Office found that the financial impact to New York City is estimated at $1.6M to $3.5M per year. This amount is down substantially from the $20M that the Department of Housing Preservation and Development estimated under the previous draft version of this bill. Moreover, the current version of this proposed legislation will have a direct benefit for tenants and their health while severely decreasing the financial impact to the City and enabling the City to recapture funds expended through its Emergency Repair Program.”
THE BURDEN OF ASTHMA FALLS ON LOW-INCOME NEW YORKERS
Nationally, about 1 in 11 children have asthma, but in some low-income areas of New York City, the childhood asthma rate can be as high as 20-25%.
“Households in high poverty areas are three times more likely to report three or more maintenance deficiencies compared to households classified as low poverty,” said Peggy Shepard, Executive Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “Indoor environmental injustices like these lead to more absenteeism from school, hospital visits, and out-of-pocket costs for low-income families, especially in communities of color. This bill could be a huge equity achievement for the City Council and Mayor before the November elections, they should move on it immediately.”
The Legal Aid Society, a coalition member, serves thousands of tenant groups in addressing repairs and services. Jason Wu, Staff Attorney said, “Our clients often struggle with unresponsive landlords for many years before accessing legal services. As advocates on the front lines, we see how indoor allergens create serious health consequences for our clients and their families. Many long term tenants in NYC, predominantly low-income communities of color, live under unsafe conditions, such as widespread mold and pest infestations, without relief in sight. The Asthma Free Housing Act will provide much needed protections for tenants.”
DOCTORS RECOMMEND BILL TO REDUCE HEALTHCARE COSTS
The New York State Department of Health estimates the annual cost of asthma is $1.3 billion in direct medical costs and lost productivity to the state. Hospitalizations account for $660 million of those costs.
Lauren Zajac, MD, MPH, Pediatrician at the Children’s Environmental Health Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai notes, “As a pediatrician, I often hear from families who are frustrated about the mold and pests problems that plague their New York City apartments and are worried about how these problems may harm their children. Both mold and pests have been linked to breathing problems, allergy symptoms, and asthma attacks. It has been shown that safe removal of these triggers from a child’s home environment can reduce asthma symptoms, and should be an important aspect of effective asthma care for all of the City’s children.”
Frank Proscia, M.D., President, Doctors Council SEIU, said “As front line doctors in New York City’s public hospital system and as school health doctors, we see and treat many adults and children with asthma every day. We believe the Asthma Free Housing Act will have a meaningful impact on both primary and secondary prevention of asthma attacks and other lung diseases that are directly exacerbated by mold and insect and rodent infestations. Some molds can be very harmful to humans, especially young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. This legislation can have a great impact on the poorer communities of our City and especially communities of color which have high rates of asthma.”
“We would like landlords to understand these triggers can cause a child not to be able to breathe resulting in asthma emergency visits to the doctor’s office or hospital, increasing healthcare costs,” said Dr. Acklema Mohammad from Urban Health Plan.
INTRO 385 CONTINUES TO BUILD CITYWIDE SUPPORT
The Coalition for Asthma-Free Housing is made up over 25 organization citywide, and support for the bill continues to grow.
“The Asthma-Free Housing Act will protect the health of all New Yorkers, especially those suffering from asthma and lung disease. No one should be exposed to toxic mold in their own homes. We applaud the Council for holding today’s hearing and urge immediate passage of this important legislation.” said Jeff Seyler, President & CEO, American Lung Association of the Northeast
“In order to address the high rates of asthma in NYC, we must adopt bold measures to identify, treat, and mitigate indoor contaminants across the five boroughs. We thank Council Member Mendez for her leadership on the Asthma-Free Housing Act, which would ensure that all housing can pass a clean air standard, enshrining our right to clean air. NYLCV is proud to support this critical legislation to help all of New York’s tenants breathe a little easier,” said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters.
Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project representatives noted, “Disparities in asthma-related hospitalizations cleave through our City down the lines of racial and economic inequality—children in East Harlem make nearly thirteen times as many asthma-related emergency room visits as children in the Upper East Side. For years, the Community Development Project has worked to dismantle these disparities alongside our organizing partners and the tenants we serve. The Asthma-Free Housing Act represents a major step forward for everyone. This legislation will provide critical enforcement tools that make it easier for all New Yorkers to live safely, in homes free from mold, pests, and other asthma-triggers.”
The Coalition for Asthma-Free Housing advocates for safer and asthma-free indoor environments for all New Yorkers. The coalition is comprised of over 25 organizations citywide, including the following community-based organizations, legal advocates, medical associations, and labor unions:
1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East * a.i.r. nyc * American Lung Association in New York * Association of Legal Aid Attorneys – UAW 2325* American Thoracic Society (ATS) * Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America * CAAAV * CEH * Commission on the Public’s Health System (CPHS) * Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) SEIU * District Council 37, AFSCME, AFL-CIO * Doctors Council SEIU * Fifth Avenue Committee/Comite de la Qunita Avenida * LiUNA Local 78 * Make the Road New York * Moms Clean Air Force * Neighbors Helping Neighbors * New York Lawyers for the Public Interest * New York League of Conservation Voters * New York State Academy of Family Physicians * New York State Nurses Association * Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation (NMIC) * Public Health Association of New York City (PHANYC) * Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCC) * Stabilizing NYC * The Legal Aid Society* Urban Health Plan Inc. * Urban Justice Center * WE ACT for Environmental Justice