Residents File Class Action Suit Against MTA Over Lead Paint on 7 Train

By Matt McClure
Reported by NY1 on Monday, May 22, 2017 at 08:05 PM

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 11.06.10 PMA group of Jackson Heights residents has filed a class action lawsuit against the MTA. They say lead paint chips falling from the elevated 7 train line pose a public health hazard. NY1’s Matt McClure filed the following report.

Standing under the elevated 7 train along Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights you can’t help but notice it: Paint chipping and falling away.

“I have two small kids,” said Dudley Stewart, a Jackson Heights resident and one of the plaintiffs in the case. “

Every day we walk through Roosevelt Avenue and I get worried because you see the dust falling from the train. We know it’s filled with lead aint.”

A recent study by a painter’s union found lead levels in paint chips here were more than 40 times the legal threshold.

Now, four Jackson Heights residents have joined together in a federal class action lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), calling on the agency to fix the problem.

“This is something the MTA has known about for years,” Steward said. “We want them to fix it. They refuse to fix it. Now is the time to force them to do it.”

“When all other avenues have failed, we believe that this lawsuit will then force the MTA to cure this hazard, which has existed for too long,” said attorney Dan Woodard, who represents the plaintiffs.

Among other things, the lawsuit accuses the agency of intentionally causing dangerous conditions by painting the structure with lead paint, then not maintaining it. City Council Member Daniel Dromm says it’s a public health hazard. He also believes it’s been 35 years since the structure between Woodside and Corona has received a fresh coat of paint.

“They keep telling us it’s in the budget,” Dromm said. “We’ve not seen it painted.”

Tammy Rose, an area resident involved in the lawsuit says the structural conditions of the elevated 7 line are so bad, one day as she was driving down Roosevelt Avenue, a bolt fell and hit her car.

“If a bolt falls off, imagine the amount of paint chips that are falling that we don’t see,” Rose said.

“You can see the structure is in very bad shape,” Dromm added. “I’m surprised it hasn’t fallen down!”

The MTA does not comment on pending litigation, but a spokesperson says their previous tests showed lead levels within EPA standards. The spokesperson also denies that it has been 35 years since the bridge has been painted, although they didn’t say when it happened. There is money in the agency’s current Capital Plan for the painting, but there’s no word on when it might happen.

For the residents who filed this lawsuit, it can’t come soon enough.

See more here.

Poisonous lead paint is raining down from the 7 train

By Danielle Furfaro

Originally published by the New York Post on April 23, 2017

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

Poisonous lead-paint chips are raining down on several Queens neighborhoods from elevated subway tracks, threatening the health of passersby, especially children, officials told The Post.

The decrepit No. 7 train trestle — which runs through Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Woodside — hasn’t been repainted in more than three decades, said City Councilman Daniel Dromm, leaving the flaking lead-based paint exposed.

“I’m surprised it’s still standing, that’s how rusted and bad the chipping of the paint is and the lead dust particles are flying through the air,” said Dromm, who grew up in the area.

The amount of lead in the paint is 224,000 parts per million — or 44 times more than what is considered safe, according to the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, which tested the falling paint chips at the behest of residents, Dromm and others.

Dr. Morri Markowitz, director of the Lead Poisoning Treatment and Prevention Program at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center, was aghast to learn about the “extremely toxic” levels falling from the elevated tracks.

“I think the Department of Health or the city environmental agencies should get involved,” the concerned doctor said. “The lead paint could potentially be falling off of every elevated track throughout the city, not just on the 7 [line].”

Davon Lomax, director of the union, noted how heavily populated the area is.

“There are food carts, restaurants and schools under there, and the dust is getting everywhere, and it’s all breathable,’’ he said.

“This poses a threat to people who work and are passing underneath there every day.”

The dilapidated sections of the overhead tracks run from the 52nd street station to Junction Boulevard.

“It’s a poison, and kids shouldn’t be exposed to it,” said resident Samuel Rivera, 62, who lives in Jackson Heights. “The MTA should have repainted this by now, but they take their sweet time doing everything.”

Father-of-two Md Lokman Hossain said he is particularly worried about his 17-month-old son, noting that the tot could mistake a paint chip for food if it fell into his lap as they walked along Roosevelt Avenue.

“He could think it’s candy or something and swallow it, and it could lead to a big problem,’’ Hossain said.

Dromm said he has repeatedly pressed the MTA to take better care of the trestles, especially the area around the 74th Street/Broadway station.

“It has not been painted for at least 35 years that I can remember,” he said.

MTA officials said it has painted the trestles more recently than that, but they couldn’t say exactly when.

“No station on the 7 line, or the connecting infrastructure, has gone 35 years without being painted,” said agency spokeswoman Beth DeFalco. “We do annual joint inspections with NYCDEP of NYC Parks that are adjacent to our subway structures and quarterly inspections of other locations”

Markowitz called lead-based paints “indestructible, and recommended that those who live close to the tracks are at highest risk, and should seek out testing — as should MTA workers and commuters who spend time in the station.

Lead poisoning can cause developmental delays, learning disabilities, hearing loss and seizures in children, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Read more here.

DNAinfo: Diversity Plaza to Get More Seating and Improved Lighting

Councilman Dromm and the DOT will contribute a combined $2.5 million to improve the plaza. photo: Veronica C./Foursquare

By Katie Honan

JACKSON HEIGHTS — A local pedestrian plaza will be getting more seats, better lighting and maps — and the community will have the chance to vote on even more improvements — thanks to funding from the area’s councilman and the city.

City Councilman Daniel Dromm announced plans to allocate $500,000 from his discretionary funds to pay for improvements to Diversity Plaza, which is on 37th Road between 73rd and 74th streets in Jackson Heights.

The plaza will receive additional seating, improved lighting and community maps with directions to the plaza once it becomes permanent, he said.

“These improvements will go a long way to build out an asset that our community has come to adopt as a town square,” Dromm said.

In addition to the funds from Dromm’s office, the Department of Transportation has earmarked $2 million to make even more changes to the plaza — changes which residents will be able to discuss and vote on at a meeting later this fall.

The money could go towards things like an improved street structure and a public pay toilet, the councilman said.

“Diversity Plaza is a result of tremendous community effort, from the intensive transportation planning sessions that developed it, to the efforts of the local merchants and civic groups that are now sustaining it,” said Andy Wiley-Schwartz, an assistant commissioner at the DOT.

The street was closed and turned into a pedestrian plaza in 2011. It is currently in its temporary design phase, but the additional money will help transition it into a permanent space.

http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131014/jackson-heights/diversity-plaza-get-more-seating-improved-lighting

 

Ny1: Touring Daniel Dromm’s District

NY1 VIDEO: The Road to City Hall’s Errol Louis visited City Councilman Daniel Dromm’s 25th city council district in Queens.

NY1: MTA Considers Reopening Elmhurst LIRR Station

NY1 VIDEO: Working with Congressman Crowley and City Council Member Dromm, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is considering reopening a shuttered Long Island Rail Road station in Elmhurst, and is seeking residents’ feedback before making a decision via Elmhurst Travel Surveys.

See more at: http://queens.ny1.com/content/top_stories/184305/mta-considers-reopening-elmhurst-lirr-station–seeks-residents–input/#sthash.Mq0IKyT8.dpuf

Times Ledger: Jax Hgts boy’s death inspires traffic forum


A block away from where an 11-year-old boy was run over by a dump truck in December, about 100 people attended City Councilman Daniel Dromm’s (D-Jackson Heights) forum Tuesday centered on improving traffic in Jackson Heights.

“This is what I thought a very good turnout,” Dromm said, “but it’s an interest of concern.”


The councilman said he had wanted to do more to improve traffic safety in Jackson Heights and had been in discussions with the city Department of Transportation, but the death of Miguel Torres, who was struck by the rear wheels of a white dump truck turning right onto Northern Boulevard from 80th Street, spurred him to get into greater discussions with the DOT. Police had not found the driver as of Wednesday afternoon.

“That just increased the urgency with which we needed to address some of these problems,” Dromm said.

The panel was held at IS 145, at 33-34 80th St. in Jackson Heights, where Torres went to school. Representatives from the 115th Precinct, the DOT and Transportation Alternatives, a public transportation advocacy group, attended. Transportation Alternatives and the civic group Jackson Heights Green Alliance co-hosted the event with Dromm.

The forum discussed both preventive and enforcement measures when dealing with traffic safety, which Yu-Ting Liu, of Transportation Alternatives, referred to as the “carrot” and the “stick” approach.

“There’s a lot of pedestrian safety and traffic calming programs that are available,” Liu said.

Two of the most commonly discussed solutions were speed tracking cameras and slow zones. Queens Deputy Borough Commissioner Delilah Hall said the DOT is in favor of speed tracking cameras, which have the potential to warn motorists speeding the same way that red light cameras have prevented drivers from running the lights.

Liu said getting drivers to slow down is of grave importance as speeding kills four times as many people as drunk driving and the difference between being hit at 30 mph and 40 mph is an 80 percent survival rate vs. a 70 percent death rate.

“Speeding matters,” she said. “Every mile per hour matters.”

The developed slow zones, which were implemented in July 2012, set 20 mph zones in residential areas as well as adding speed bumps and other traffic-calming measures. Some sections of Jackson Heights, Corona, Elmhurst and Auburndale received slow zones, but to do this the area must have natural boundaries and must not be a bus or truck route.

As a major thoroughfare, the intersection where Miguel was hit could not become a slow zone, Hall said.

“We will continue to work with you on how to make Northern Boulevard safer,” Hall said.

Liu said to make changes in terms of traffic safety, it is important to be specific, organized and articulate about what you want as a community.

“Get organized about what your problem is, document it and work with your local elected officials,” she said.

Streetsblog: Elmhurst Reps Want LIRR Station Reopened and New Revenues to Pay For It

From Streetsblog: By Noah Kazis


Elmhurst’s elected officials voiced support for transit investment at a town hall hosted by Congressman Joe Crowley and Council Member Daniel Dromm last night.

A group of politicians including the two hosts, State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, and Assembly Members Grace Meng and Francisco Moya called for reopening Elmhurst’s Long Island Railroad Station, shuttered in 1985 due to low ridership. And to help bus and subway riders across the city, Elmhurst’s reps said the state would need to find new, dedicated revenue for transit.

Underlying the entire evening discussion was Elmhurst’s explosive population growth, fed by a vibrant immigrant community. The population of Elmhurst and the surrounding neighborhoods of Corona, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights grew 40 percent between 1980 and 2010, and many believe recent estimates for the area are too low. “Elmhurst continues to grow and multiply,” said Crowley, “but we have still been limited to the same modes of transportation.”

Residents complained of crowded buses and leaky subway stations, demanding more investment in their neighborhood. Just under half of subway riders interviewed by Transportation Alternatives at a nearby station said they had a one-way commute of 45 minutes or more.

Crowley, who also serves as head of the Queens Democratic Party, said that more and better transit has to be part of the solution for the neighborhood. “It’s about more livable communities, places that provide access to people,” he said. “It’s about finding smarter ways to move people about.”

“You can’t run a city like New York City unless you have a high-quality mass transit system,” agreed Dromm.

Previous transit town halls have taken place in Flushing, Jamaica, and Soundview. Much of the evening’s discussion focused on the effort led by Crowley and Dromm to reopen the neighborhood’s LIRR station, located on Broadway near Whitney Avenue. “The people are here,” said Stavisky. “They’re ready to use the railroad.”


Though reopening the station would cost $30 million, according to the Daily News, and LIRR fares are significantly costlier than the subway, Crowley argued the money would be worth it for many residents headed into Manhattan. “What is the cost of freedom?” he asked. “What is the cost for an extra forty minutes or an hour? What would one pay to have that extra hour with their children?”

A representative for the LIRR expressed enthusiasm for the possibility of reopening the station after the completion of the MTA’s current capital plan in 2014; he said improvements currently being built would be necessary to ensure that trains stopping in Elmhurst weren’t already full once they arrived.

He also said that the station would have elevator access to the platforms, which earned acclaim from the largely older population attending the meeting. “From here to Mid-Manhattan is an hour and twenty minutes at least,” said one Elmhurst resident who currently has to take the bus because she is in a wheelchair. “I do it three times a week.” Added her friend, “If you build it, we will come.”

While the politicians didn’t endorse a specific revenue source to pay for the changes, they knew that Elmhurst won’t get something for nothing. “That’s why finding ways to raise additional funding for the MTA to make improvements, for the Elmhurst station, for any of the subway lines, in reality, is so important,” said Dromm. “Without some source of dedicated funding, we’re going to see more neglect, unfortunately.”


In response to a question about where those revenues could come from, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White rattled off a number of options, including raising the more than a dozen taxes that already go to the MTA, reinstating the city’s commuter tax and putting that money toward transit, or Sam Schwartz’s plan to rationalize the city’s toll system — lowering tolls on outlying bridges while adding tolls to the currently free bridges into Manhattan.

“The most important part is finding alternative resources so we can invest and reinvest in our mass transit system,” said Crowley. He didn’t endorse a particular revenue stream, but said that White’s list included a number of potential options.

The congressman also noted that in addition to finding new revenues, the MTA needs to hold on to those it has from the federal government. The Republican proposal for a transportation bill, which Crowley fought against, could have cost the MTA up to a billion dollars a year by eliminating the share of gas tax revenues going to transit. “We need to not cut,” he said. “I know that the Senate is working on a two year extender at the current levels, which is not optimum but is better than what they were doing in the House.” Crowley said he was hopeful that Congress would pass a transportation bill this year, but that he wasn’t holding his breath.

Meng, who along with Stavisky also attended the transit town hall in Flushing last summer, spoke passionately about the importance of transit. “For the future and success of the Queens economy, I think mass transit is vital,” she said. She noted that many of her constituents see building more parking as the best way to improve transportation, but investing in transit was a better idea.

Moya pitched transit improvements as a way to improve the ever-worsening congestion on Queens streets. “We need to find a solution to how we can ease a lot of the traffic that we’re seeing throughout the communities. So many people travel by car,” he said, “because of the lack of a train.”

Streetsblog: The Jackson Heights Plaza Is Growing on Some Local Merchants


A package of enhancements and adjustments to the new pedestrian plaza on 37th Road in Jackson Heights — the object of a high-profile backlash from a group of local merchants this winter — is winning over some of the skeptics.

DOT has placed new planters and seating to spruce up the plaza and give it more color, while also adding parking and loading spaces and reversing the direction of traffic on a nearby block to improve access to the plaza, allaying some of the merchants’ fears.

The larger package of transportation changes related to the plaza had shown impressive benefits — shaving seven minutes off of local bus trips — and the new public space was already widely used. But recent tweaks have helped build a stronger consensus around the plaza, which proved to be the most controversial element of the plan.

City Council Member Daniel Dromm is a plaza supporter and has used his discretionary funds to pay for its upkeep. ”DOT has stepped up to the plate,” he said of the dozen or so planters that arrived in the plaza last Thursday. “The place is looking much more attractive.”

More street furniture is set to be delivered this Friday, when tables and chairs will be delivered at the request of two local restaurant owners. Those business owners, who had previously aligned with the merchants leading the fight against the plaza, have disassociated from the opposition. “They have grown to see the benefits to their restaurants,” said Dromm.

The tweaks aren’t limited to the new pedestrian space between 73rd and 74th Street. One block to the east, DOT has changed the direction of 37th Road. Now, the street feeds into the plaza rather than away from it, easing merchant fears that the redesign of the neighborhood’s street network had made it harder for customers to access their stores.

On that same block, DOT replaced a bus layover area and striped bike lane with parking; the buses were moved a block away and the bike lane replaced with sharrows. According to Dromm, the addition of these spots is more than enough to offset the removal of parking to make way for the plaza. “There’s actually more parking for the merchants now,” he said, estimating that there’s been a net increase of five parking spaces. Loading zones were also added around the corner for stores fronting the plaza.

Overall, the new traffic pattern appears popular in the neighborhood. At a town hall meeting held last night, ten or so plaza opponents held up signs and protested, but a much larger number cheered and clapped for the changes, reported Len Maniace, a vice president of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group. “There was opposition,” he said, “but there was significantly more support.”

“It was an overwhelming show of support for the plaza,” said Dromm. “It was just great.”

When the transportation plan for the neighborhood was first presented to the local community board last year, including rerouting two bus routes and making the one block of 37th Road car-free, it passed unanimously.

While some merchants are coming to embrace the plaza, the hard core of opposition shows no sign of being mollified by the modifications. “I don’t think they will be totally satisfied until the plaza is gone,” said Dromm, “and that’s not going to happen.”

In addition to speeding bus service, said Dromm, the plaza has had a marked impact on safety. The intersection at one end of the plaza, where 37th Road, 74th Street and Broadway all meet, was the most dangerous in Jackson Heights until last year. “Since the implementation of the traffic study, there hasn’t been one accident on the corner,” said Dromm. “That alone is reason to keep it.”

A more formal DOT evaluation will be ready next month, said Maniace, and will be presented to the community board.

With better weather around the corner, Maniace said he expects the plaza to become only more popular in the coming months among residents and merchants alike. “With the spring and summer coming up, there’s a real opportunity for increased business there,” he said. “They may end up needing even more tables and chairs.”


NY1: Transit, Elected Officials Discuss New LIRR Station For Elmhurst

From NY1: By Tina Redwine

Should the Long Island Rail Road build a new station in Elmhurst, Queens? Some residents hope so.

“It’s just so much faster than a subway. If you can afford it, it’s definitely the way to go,” said Elmhurst resident Andrew Ruf.

There was a station in the neighborhood until about 25 years ago, when the LIRR demolished it because few riders used it.

On Thursday, area Congressman Joseph Crowley and City Councilman Daniel Dromm toured the old site with the railroad’s president, Helena Williams.

Crowley said the station would allow a shorter commute and more family time for residents.

“It’s not just about getting to and from work. It’s about a better standard of living and a better quality of life,” said Crowley.

Census figures show there are 40 percent more people living in Elmhurst than there were when the station closed. Dromm said locals are not happy with the subway service.

“The subway stops are crowded, that often times they have some delays on the subway. they’d like to have another option,” said Dromm.

Williams said an Elmhurst station is a possibility.

“We are doing things along the line that gives us the opportunity to add trains, by adding trains it becomes once again feasible to stop trains in the outer boroughs,” said Williams.

She said Elmhurst is the only new station the LIRR is considering.

The decision to build the station depends largely on how many riders will use it, so the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is doing a survey to see how many bus, subway and vans riders here would pay more to take the LIRR.

A full-fare ticket from Elmhurst would be $7.25 cents, $5 more than the subway. But the LIRR would get riders into Manhattan 25 minutes faster and eventually all the way to Grand Central Terminal, once the East Side Access project is completed.

“It’s worth it because time is money,” said an Elmhurst resident.

MTA officials say the new station would cost between $20 million to $30 million.

Queens Chronicle: Dromm touts park deal, 7 train lease


In a wide-ranging conversation with the Chronicle’s editorial staff last Friday, Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) highlighted the expansion of Jackson Heights’ Travers Park, the leasing of an empty commercial space at a nearby 7 Train terminal, and the creation of the 37th Road Plaza — which some Bangladeshi groups have opposed — as highlights of his accomplishments to date.

He also weighed in on a number of issues relating to the city at large, including his ongoing support of the living wage bill, his distaste for some of the NYPD’s practices, and why he strongly supports the removal of churches from the city’s schools.

When asked if he would be running for reelection in 2013, Dromm, who beat out incumbent Councilwoman Helen Sears in September 2009, answered, “Absolutely.”

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” he said. Looking back at his administration to date, he said, “the biggest thing we’ve done is to preserve open space.”

This includes his efforts to expand Travers Park, on 34th Avenue between 77th and 78th streets — one of Jackson Heights’ lone green spaces — by acquiring land from the Garden School, a private institution across the street, which Dromm said would nearly double the park’s size.

Negotiations to buy the school’s yard first began in August 2010, he said. The councilman eventually secured $4 million — $1 million from his funds and $3 million from the City Council’s Queens delegation — along with an additional $1 million from Borough President Helen Marshall, to buy the land. And despite a competing bid for the yard from a developer early last year, Dromm said the “signing on the dotted line” for the green space would take place soon.

Turning to the creation of the 37th Road Plaza — the stretch of the road between 73rd and 74th streets was closed to traffic last September — Dromm emphasized he continues to believe the space and related traffic changes are a boon for the community, despite the much-publicized discontent of a group of Bangladeshi businesses located on or near the plaza.

“They’re too late to the table,” he said of the dissenters. “They’re going to have to adjust.”

The process that led to the creation of the plaza took three years, Dromm said. A Department of Transportation study on the area had input from “close to 500 people,” but all six businesses on the particular stretch of 37th Road affected “chose not to participate.”

One of the factors hurting businesses there, Dromm added, was moving a bus route from 73rd Street to 75th Street, something he said has reduced travel time by eight minutes.

Increased congestion as the result of a new grocery store that may open on the plaza, however, has Dromm concerned. A part of the marquee of the old Eagle Theater on the plaza has already come down, even as Dromm continues to hope the owner of the building can be convinced not to allow the store.

“My hope is that the business owners will work with us,” Dromm said. The store would not be a small one, but would sell “50-pound bags of rice” and other goods in large quantities.

“It’s effectively like putting a Costco in the middle of a residential area,” he said.

Turning to development nearby that he was pleased with, Dromm noted that Italian chain restaurant Famous Famiglia will be renting a two-story, 4,000-square-foot space in the 7 train terminal on 75th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, which has been empty for eight years. He said he began looking for people to lease the space as early as December 2009, before he had even taken office, and that the restaurant was a key component of the area’s overall economic development.

But he did not mince words when it came to the MTA.

“They basically are our worst enemies in terms of economic development,” he said, referring not only to the agency’s seeming inability to rent the space in the past, but also to the persistent pigeon poop problem around the 7 train’s Jackson Heights station.

Dromm went on to address citywide concerns, including his ongoing support for the living wage bill, a compromise version of which was recently proposed by Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The bill would raise the wages of workers in developments that have received subsidies to $10 an hour with benefits, or $11.50 without. But with Quinn’s compromise, the raised wages would only apply to building service employees at such projects, and not necessarily the employees of any businesses that rent space from them.

“I believe in paying workers well,” Dromm said simply. “Especially where you’re giving tax abatements, then I think the city should be an advocate” for workers, he added.

Referring to the Queens Center Mall, where some tenants, such as J.C. Penney’s, have nonunionized employees, Dromm said he is for the workers.

“What we’re asking from Macerich [the Mall’s owner] is only neutrality,” he said.

Beyond the living wage bill, citywide issues Dromm addressed included the police practice of stop and frisk and the NYPD’s widespread surveillance of Muslim communities.

“I think Ray Kelly is very popular,” Dromm said, adding he’s “surprised at how teflon [Kelly] is,” referring to the commisioner’s seeming invicibility.

“We’ve seen police corruption all over the place.” Surveilling Muslim civilians is, to Dromm, the beginning of a “slippery slope.”

Rounding up the meeting, Dromm turned to the issue of the separation of church and schools, as churches continue to battle a Department of Education order banning any religious organization from renting space in city schools.

Dromm strongly supports the separation, by and large because of what he characterized as insidious attempts on the parts of churches and other organizations to “evangelize” to public school students.

“They are calling this church planting,” he said. Some of the churches in the city aren’t just in a school “every Sunday,” he said, “but week after week after week.”

Dromm said he had previously supported efforts to remove the Boy Scouts from schools by and large because of the organization’s refusal to accept gay members or leaders.

When asked whether his holding the occasional public meeting in a church or synagogue was at all hypocritical, the councilman answered that he pays full rent for such spaces, while religious organizations get a subsidized rent in the schools they occupy.

At the meeting’s end, Dromm proudly identified himself as one of the City Council’s most “progressive” members, adding that treading the “middle of the road” was not the reason he had taken up office. “I enjoy being a progressive voice on these issues,” he said.