Corbett: Lead paint inspections flawed

Resident leader says worker came to her door with no identification

Pomonok Houses Residents Association President Monica Corbett took off a few hours of work on Tuesday morning so that she could let a lead paint inspector into her apartment. And she isn’t exactly happy with how it went.

“A guy came alone with NO IDENTIFICATION. I refused the first try,” she told the Chronicle in an email. “All contractors are supposed to show ID and wear a safety vest.”

The man returned, she added, with his supervisor and a NYCHA employee.

“He only did a visual inspection that took only five minutes,” Corbett explained. “What a waste; I lost three hours of pay.”

She also said that another resident of the Flushing housing complex received a letter notifying her of an inspection that did not even happen because of a mixup.

For Corbett, the issue is personal: When her son was 4 years old, he tested positive for lead in his blood. “I didn’t feel like my son was developing properly, she said, adding that she does not believe NYCHA took her concerns seriously enough.

According to Corbett, Pomonok residents should also have been able to address concerns about the inspections before they happened.

“There was no pre-start meeting to discuss scope of work,” she said. “That is normal procedure.”

The Pomonok leader is far from the only New Yorker upset with the housing authority’s handling of lead paint.

A scathing Department of Investigation report alleges that the agency filed false compliance certifications to the federal government saying it completed lead inspections that it had failed to do.

Mayor de Blasio also knew about the fake compliance reports for more than a year.

NYCHA is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Public Advocate Letitia James, who has a probe into the situation, has called for the agency’s chairman, Shola Olatoye, to step down.

The scandal has also outraged Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and the newly elected Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal (D-Flushing).

“Once again NYCHA has dropped the ball on properly maintaining their properties,” Rosenthal said in an emailed statement. “This time it has crossed a line; not only have they shown complete disregard for the safety of residents and their children, but misleading the public about the inspections is unacceptable.”

Corbett said that the agency’s policy of allowing workers into apartments for inspections even if tenants weren’t home amounts to a “break-in.”

In a statement, the housing authority defended the practice.

“For lead inspections, they will always receive prior notice,” NYCHA spokeswoman Jasmine Blake said in an email. “This is outlined in our lease. We only remove a lock as a last resort as there is a process communicated to residents that would allow NYCHA to enter with our extra key.”

The recent wave of lead inspections by the housing authority started last month. Blake said that NYCHA units throughout the city where a child under 6 is living and “lead paint has not been ruled out” received a notice for an inspection.