ALBANY – Two Buffalo apartment buildings will undergo extensive renovation to resolve lead paint hazards, according to a settlement announced by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The settlement requires a variety of abatement steps be taken at Elmwood Anderson Apartments, at Anderson Place and Elmwood Avenue, and the Lafayette-Barton Apartments, at Lafayette Avenue and Barton Street. Together the two buildings have 69 units.
“This settlement requires major, permanent fixes that will help protect future generations of children,’’ Schneiderman said in a written statement. “Buffalo is among the most dangerous lead hot spots in America, and my office will continue fighting to hold property owners accountable and ensure that families in Western New York and across the state can rest assured that their homes are free of dangerous lead.’’
Exposure to lead paint or lead-contaminated dust can lead to a variety of mental and physical development problems in children. At extremely high levels, lead paint exposure can be fatal.
The two apartment buildings are owned by Anderson Apartments LLC, Lafayette-Barton Apartments LLC and Glendale Development LLC. Glendale is a Tonawanda-based corporation that manages over 4,000 apartments in the Buffalo and Rochester areas, including the two buildings with lead paint problems, according to a copy of the 31-page settlement agreement obtained by The Buffalo News. The original complaint about lead paint problems involved the buildings’ previous owners.
The settlement comes after children living in the apartments tested positive for high lead levels. Schneiderman’s office said the county and city both issued various violations against the properties and their former owner.
A statement by Schneiderman’s office says the legal settlement requires the apartment buildings' new owners to perform a variety of work, including replacement of windows, doors, floors and other interior and exterior surfaces containing lead paint. The work is expected to begin this summer at the Elmwood Anderson Apartments, while a separate lead paint remediation program will be issued by Schneiderman for the Lafayette-Barton Apartments, where a major fire occurred in March. Both projects will be checked by an outside monitor, according to the settlement.
The settlement papers state that the case began with a separate investigation by Schneiderman’s office of Crawford Costa LLC, Crawford Lafayette Barton LLC and David D. Crawford, which the document says were the previous owners of the two buildings. In 2015, the buildings – already subject to lead paint violations by the county – were sold to Glendale. The Attorney General’s Office told Glendale just prior to the property closings that the properties were being investigated for lead paint poisoning problems. Crawford then put $415,000 into an escrow account to address future abatement work.
The buildings' current owners do not acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement and the documents from Schneiderman state that they cooperated with his probe. The settlement document was signed by Matthew Cherry of Glendale Development.
Cherry stressed that the probe began before his company bought the properties and that word of Schneiderman's investigation surfaced as it was conducting its due diligence process leading up to the closing on the properties. "We are currently in productive negotiations with the seller as to the escrow, which we assert should fund our remediation efforts. At this time, we are not prepared to estimate the full cost of remediation,'' Cherry said in a written response to questions about the settlement.
The undisclosed costs of the work are to come from the current owners or the previous owners' escrow account. No federal or state grant money is to be used to cover the work, the deal states.
Lead paint poisoning has been a problem in Buffalo for years. Among large cities, Buffalo has the highest percentage of housing stock built prior to World War II. In announcing the settlement, Schneiderman noted that children test positive for lead poisoning in Buffalo at three times the state average.
Lead-based paint was banned in consumer products by the federal government in 1978. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that 87 percent of homes built before 1940 contain lead paint, though they may be covered by layers of non-lead paint applied over decades.