Eschewing a presentation on fiscal health, citizen watchdog John Marshall Lee urged City Council members Monday night to become advocates for constituents suffering from respiratory illnesses.
Last week an employee of a City Department asked me: “Where is your snow shovel?” What was he talking about? I brought this shovel on more than one occasion because a historic confrontation happened in this room. Better management of resources and operations took place. The snow shovel was the symbol of a problem. The City responded. A symbol for action.
A couple years later I introduced these red boots to the Council. On the front of one it says O.B. standing for Operating Budget and on the other is B.S. standing for Balance Sheet. The rubber boots were symbols of the City being in the “red” rather than the “black” and “sinking underwater” with debts and obligations growing faster than we are paying them down. They were promised to Denese Taylor-Moye when fiscal info shows multi-year trends toward improvement. No noticeable trend yet.
Tonight I am introducing a 50 Gallon industrial capacity black bag, one of three kept by a Mom. They are filled with respiratory medicine packaging from prescriptions for asthma and allergies used by her son, the young man standing before you, over the past five years. The young man has lived in a Park City Community apartment unit with his mother. Broken water pipes within the building, precipitation coming through unrepaired windows for months at a time, and sewage and other leakage at the base of second and third floor room walls created an opportunity for mold to feel at home and grow. Medical records at emergency rooms stand as evidence of what happens.
Just today NYC public housing is reporting lead-based health issues as being underreported. Lead is recognized as a problem federally, whether you see it or not, to be remedied so that lead concentrations do not cause severe damage to human organs, especially those of youth. If blood tests or other forms of health testing shows increased lead levels, it is a problem. There is a protocol to follow.
Mold is different it turns out. You have to see it. It has to be visual according to our State legislature. Testing is not routinely done in the City. And after bleach and scraping have removed obvious sites, paint is applied, only to frequently re-appear as if bleeding through the paint months or years later. In many cases that which was visual, on one side of the wallboard, is “repaired” on the interior side, but nothing was observed, tested, or if necessary, remedied to any standard for the dark side. So lungs are at risk, based on State law, to the frustration, expense and outrage of hospitals local and statewide.
Oversight is one of your tasks. That is why you have liaison responsibilities with other City groups. If you do not attend their meetings, read their minutes and listen to citizen responses to service requests and complaints, you are not doing oversight. Why not?? Integrity is doing what you are supposed to do, even if no one is looking at you.
We have City Code enforcement, environment and health inspectors and Park City Communities that has nearly 2500 units of housing. What is the story about mold in public housing? Are records open to review? What is the repair protocol? Is there a budget for testing? Is this your business? Vulnerable tenants may be afraid to speak up. You may be their only advocate or voice. If you are silent because of ignorance, tonight you are no longer ignorant. Do you care? People are suffering. Too many folks become victims of respiratory issues that likely are avoidable.
Where are the votes in it? If you think that providing a slice of pizza gets more votes at election time than helping your constituents obtain the best possible health outcomes when water, heat and closed spaces create mold conditions that are difficult to see … or are on the other side of wallboard. Why will no one pick up this cause? Remember the “black bag” and the compromised lungs of the young in our City. Time will tell.