Steamfitters question NYCHA plan for mold abatement

The key to fixing mold in buildings run by the New York City Housing Authority isn't just to replace sheetrock. Leaky pipes need to be fixed too, according to a white paper issued in late November by the Enterprise Association of Steamfitters Local 638.

The union says mold abatement can be achieved in one series of moves. Avoiding the issue of leaky pipes means the mold will simply return, they say.

Judge's order to clean up mold

The white paper came days after a federal judge ordered the city to clean up mold in its 2,602 buildings that have an adverse effect on some of the 600,000 people who live there and suffer from asthma and allergies.

The order comes after a failed 2013 lawsuit between the NYCHA and a local housing non-profit organization that claimed the city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to remove mold from apartments. NYCHA had agreed to remove the mold but has yet to do so.

The judge's order enforces the 2013 settlement, sets up a deadline and appoints several experts to answer tenant complains. The removal cost is expected to be $500,000 per year.

The Steamfitters' position

Fixing the mold is a great idea, but leaky pipes - some of which are more than 50 years old - means the mold will return in short order, the union claims.

That's why the 8,000-member union proposes that the NYCHA does the job right the first time and fixes, the mold, the sheetrock and the pipes all at once.

The Steamfitters also cite a new city law that goes into effect in January that will require landlords to inspect apartments when they turn over to find and replace materials that might cause problems like asthma.

The union doesn't offer a pricetag for the fixes but says the NYCHA can save $80 million by replacing leaky pipes. A spokeswoman for NYCHA says the organization needs $32 billion in the next five years to meet building and infrastructure needs.

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