A judge has rejected the city's request to dismiss a lawsuit brought by parents trying to speed up the effort to get polychlorinated biphenyls removed from schools.
As many as 800 city schools have been found to have PCBs in lights or insulation installed before 1979.
The New York City Department of Education gave itself 10 years to remove them from schools, but parents and public interest lawyers sought to expedite the removal, saying the long timeline endangers children.
Parents protested last year about the toxins.
"There have been leaks at our school we have found little droplets under chairs," said Daniella Liebling, whose son attends the Brooklyn New School.
City lawyers tried to have the lawsuit dismissed, but Judge Sterling Johnson said their claims were "illogical" and accused them of dragging their feet.
“With the cognitive development of children at stake, it would have been refreshing to see humanitarian concerns trump the compulsion to delay litigation with quite so many spurious arguments," Johnson wrote in his decision. "But some dreams remain deferred."
"Judge Sterling Johnson actually quotes Langston Hughes," said Christina Giorgio of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. "He makes numerous references to the fact that parents really are entitled to have answers from the city, and that PCBs are toxic. Their impacts are well known, and what the city is doing with regard to insisting on this 10-year plan is simply irresponsible."
In response, New York City Corporate Council said it disagreed with the ruling, stressing that nothing is more important than the health of the city's children.
The Department of Education said that fixtures have been fixed in 92 buildings, with work planned for another 97 buildings this summer.
PCBs were banned in 1979, and exposure can affect the immune and nervous systems.
Liebling says the city told her that her son's school is on the fast track for repairs within five years but is hoping more will be done even sooner.