Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo

Another Voice: Collaboration can Reduce Danger of Lead Poisoning [The Buffalo News]

Jun 02, 2016 | Posted in News

The Buffalo News - June 2, 2016:

By: Cara Matteliano

Lead poisoning can steal the future of children under the age of 6 before they even enter a classroom. Recognizing that Buffalo’s lead poisoning rates are among the highest in the state, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has developed a new, collaborative model that combines local, state and federal enforcement resources in the fight against lead poisoning hazards in rental properties.

The attorney general’s efforts were described in T.J. Pignataro’s recent story, “Mother’s fight for justice over child’s lead poisoning gets Rochester firms banned from Buffalo.” The family’s landlord, First Nationle Solution LLC and affiliate Lucian Development LLC, repeatedly violated federal, state and local housing laws intended to protect tenant health and safety. Schneiderman and Assistant Attorney General Jane Cameron coordinated with personnel from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Erie County Health Department and City of Buffalo code enforcement to stop this dangerous business practice.

The AG’s lawsuit brought safe-housing enforcement to the next level. No wrist slap, no revolving door. First Nationle/Lucian have been evicted from Buffalo’s East Side. They were forced to give up six properties and pay a settlement of $350,000 that will be used to resettle tenants and rehabilitate distressed housing.

The settlement shows that government collaboration works. Each entity brought its strengths to the table. The attorney general lifted First Nationle/Lucian’s corporate veil, identified their property holdings and, in cooperation with city, county and HUD personnel, cataloged hundreds of violations of federal, state and local law. First Nationle/Lucian’s properties were rife with chipped lead paint, bedbugs and fire hazards.

We all know government enforcement resources are strained. The county needs more lead inspectors, the city must enforce all building codes and HUD’s national enforcement efforts are spread thin. Schneiderman deserves high praise for developing a model that synergizes available resources and accomplishes more than any of these entities could achieve on their own. This approach should become the new normal for local, state and national housing enforcement efforts in Buffalo, and in cities across the country facing similar challenges.

We must leverage every available resource to combat household lead hazards and ensure that our children are given every opportunity for a safe and healthy future. The attorney general’s novel approach works. Lead poisoning is, after all, 100 percent preventable, but prevention requires collaboration on every level.

Cara Matteliano is vice president of Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.

To view this story in The Buffalo News, click here.

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