A group of Jackson Heights residents has filed a class action lawsuit against the MTA. They say lead paint chips falling from the elevated 7 train line pose a public health hazard. NY1's Matt McClure filed the following report.
Standing under the elevated 7 train along Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights you can't help but notice it: Paint chipping and falling away.
“I have two small kids,” said Dudley Stewart, a Jackson Heights resident and one of the plaintiffs in the case. “
Every day we walk through Roosevelt Avenue and I get worried because you see the dust falling from the train. We know it's filled with lead aint.”
A recent study by a painter's union found lead levels in paint chips here were more than 40 times the legal threshold.
Now, four Jackson Heights residents have joined together in a federal class action lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), calling on the agency to fix the problem.
“This is something the MTA has known about for years,” Steward said. “We want them to fix it. They refuse to fix it. Now is the time to force them to do it.”
“When all other avenues have failed, we believe that this lawsuit will then force the MTA to cure this hazard, which has existed for too long,” said attorney Dan Woodard, who represents the plaintiffs.
Among other things, the lawsuit accuses the agency of intentionally causing dangerous conditions by painting the structure with lead paint, then not maintaining it. City Council Member Daniel Dromm says it's a public health hazard. He also believes it's been 35 years since the structure between Woodside and Corona has received a fresh coat of paint.
“They keep telling us it's in the budget,” Dromm said. “We've not seen it painted.”
Tammy Rose, an area resident involved in the lawsuit says the structural conditions of the elevated 7 line are so bad, one day as she was driving down Roosevelt Avenue, a bolt fell and hit her car.
“If a bolt falls off, imagine the amount of paint chips that are falling that we don't see,” Rose said.
“You can see the structure is in very bad shape,” Dromm added. “I'm surprised it hasn't fallen down!”
The MTA does not comment on pending litigation, but a spokesperson says their previous tests showed lead levels within EPA standards. The spokesperson also denies that it has been 35 years since the bridge has been painted, although they didn't say when it happened. There is money in the agency’s current Capital Plan for the painting, but there's no word on when it might happen.
For the residents who filed this lawsuit, it can't come soon enough.