Progress Queens seeks judicial intervention for the public release of NYCHA lead-related documents

By LOUIS FLORES

After representatives of both of the New York City Housing Authority and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New York’s southern district failed to publicly release documents about the exposure to lead and the risk of exposure to lead faced by NYCHA tenants, Progress Queens applied for judicial intervention to secure the public release of such documents.

Progress Queens dispatched on Friday a letter request to the Hon. U.S. District Court Judge Deborah Batts, requesting Her Honor’s assistance for the release of the lead-related documents.

In the letter, Progress Queens noted that in a report published by Progress Queens, it was noted that “conclusions reached about the exposure to lead and the risk of exposure to lead for all of NYCHA’s 400,000 tenants rest on a proxy test of 202 children living in NYCHA housing developments and drinking water tested in approximately 175 apartment units.”

Noting the inadequacy of such tests and noting that each of NYCHA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office failed to honor freedom of information requests submitted by Progress Queens, Progress Queens argued that, since the lead-related documents are subject to Her Honor’s jurisdiction, the Hon. U.S. District Court Judge Batts could determine if the lead-related documents could be released.

After Progress Queens had submitted its original request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law to NYCHA, NYCHA threatened to charge Progress Queens 25 cents per page of requested records. Because Progress Queens requested electronic copies of all non-exempt, public documents produced by NYCHA to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the copying fee NYCHA was threatening to assess Progress Queens could have amounted to approximately $100 million, given that NYCHA has reportedly produced over 400 million documents to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

NYCHA promised to provide a determination within one month of having acknowledged the Progress Queens FOIL Request. However, NYCHA has exceeded by thirty (30) days the date from which it made its acknowledgement.

An informal request made to the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not result in any coöperation, prompting the request submitted by Progress Queens to the Hon. U.S. District Court Judge Batts.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is conducting a wide-ranging investigation of NYCHA reportedly related to lead poisoning and possible acts of financial fraud.

Despite the urgent need by NYCHA tenants to know about their exposure to lead or risk of exposure to lead, neither NYCHA nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office have voluntarily and publicly released documents about such exposure or risks.

Reference Documents

2016-04-29 Hon Judge Deborah A Batts - NYCHA Request for Judicial Intervention (Progress Queens) [Scribd]