EAST VILLAGE, NY — An East Village building run by Jared Kushner’s real estate management company has tested for lead levels nearly 10-times higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard, according to analysis performed by the city.
The 118 E. 4th St. building managed by Westminster City Living, owned by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, has housed a litany of health hazards including months-long bouts without cooking gas, a rat infestation and mounds of festering trash. Poisonous lead dust coating hallways and staircases is the latest addition to the building.
A Nov. 28 report performed by Atlas Environmental Laboratory for the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found elevated lead levels in four of the five samples collected in the building. One sample taken from the stairs of the second and third floor hallway showed 383 micrograms of lead per a square foot — the EPA standard for those surfaces is 39 micrograms per a square foot.
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Photos by tenants show staircase banisters and floors coated in what appears to be lead dust from construction, and an exposed dumpster outside of the building filled with likely lead-laden debris. One tenant described the chaotic construction and feeling a “burning in the back of [his] throat” after inhaling the grime.
“A dust cloud invaded my entire apartment from the demolition happening in the apartment below me. I felt a burning in [the] back of my throat along with [the] feeling of grit,” said David Dupuis, a tenant of 118 E. 4th St. for 35 years.
“I decided to leave for my own safety. When I returned in the evening, the halls and everything in my apartment was completely covered in dust. The burning sensation at the back of my throat lasted for days.”
Lead poisoning causes a myriad of health impacts including increased blood pressure, decreased kidney function or reproductive problems in men and women. Children under six are especially susceptible to the heavy metal and can face developmental delays, behavioral and learning problems and anemia due to exposure, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Lead Dust Free NYC coalition — made up of organizers with the Cooper Square Committee and local tenants associations — and elected officials called on Westminster City Living to adopt safe work practices to protect tenants from further exposure.
“Residents exposure to the ill effects of lead dust is completely preventable if safe work practices are followed,” said Liz Haak, a member of the Lead Dust Free NYC Coalition. “All landlords have to be held accountable to following those safe work practices to protect both tenants and passers-by from harmful exposure to lead dust.”
A spokeswoman with Kushner Properties said the company remediated the contamination immediately and defended the real-estate group’s construction practices.
“As soon as we were alerted to the condition, we instructed the contractor responsible to immediately clean the public areas and to implement stricter measures to prevent construction dust or debris from escaping the work area,” a company spokeswoman said. “Kushner always uses a lead certified contractor who fully complies with the law.”
The East Village and Lower East Side are awash with privately-owned buildings that have faced lead dust contamination because of sloppy construction work, often as a means to push out rent-regulated tenants.
Laws, such as Local Law 1 of 2004, are already on the books to ensure health and safety measures are taken to protect tenants, but advocates say they are rarely enforced and don’t go far enough.
The City Council is making strides on protecting vulnerable New Yorkers from lead exposure and is amid an overhaul of the city’s lead laws — the biggest since 2004 — with the introduction of 23 bills this spring that aim to eliminate lead poisoning across the city.
“Horrifying stories” such as the lead contamination at 118 E. 4th Street exemplify why stronger laws are needed to protect tenants, according to local Councilwoman Carlina Rivera who slammed Kushner’s neglect for safety standards.
“These horrifying stories of lead contamination at 118 East 4th Street are just the latest example of Jared Kushner and Kushner Companies putting people’s lives at risk as part of their harassment campaign against rent-regulated tenants,” said Rivera.
Kushner has amassed a sizable real-estate profile in the East Village with a focus on tenement-style buildings, many of which are rent-regulated. The E. 4th Street property is among dozens owned by the developer in the area — with a reputation for shoddy management.
The neighborhood’s State Senator Brad Hoylman called the conditions at 118 E. 4th St. “egregious and unacceptable” and pledged to work toward enacting stronger tenant protections in Albany to ease the burden on renters.
“Shoddy enforcement and weak penalties have allowed bad actors to freely flout regulations and jeopardize the health of the public,” said Hoylman. “Negligent and dangerous construction work has no place in my district.”
A banister of a staircase in 118 E. 4th Street coated with construction dust and an exposed dumpster packed with likely lead-laden debris. (Photos courtesy of Lead Dust Free NYC Coalition)