NEW YORK — Families living in public housing were devastated to find high levels of lead in their children's blood and hundreds of pages of emails, obtained by PIX11, show the growing frustration of employees at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and at the New York City Housing Authority.
There is no safe blood lead level and anything above level five is considered blood poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But Tiesha Jones' daughter, who lived in Bronx public housing, has elevated levels of lead in her blood. Jones sued NYCHA and won $57 million.
Her daughter Dakota's case isn't the only one.
Sherron Paige's 4-year-old son has a blood level of 12. She and Kyan live in the Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn.
Devon Hunt, a mom of three, was told her apartment at the Ingersoll Houses in Brooklyn was lead free, but a state inspection team later found lead.
PIX11 News wanted to know if there were more sick children and filed a Freedom of Information Act request for correspondence between HUD and NYCHA back in March. While waiting for the documents, the U.S. Attorney’s Office released an explosive 80-page complaint outlining how NYCHA bosses lied about lead, mold, rats and elevator repairs for years inside thousands of homes.
According to the complaint, 19 children had lead poisoning, and that number could be higher.
“There is every reason to believe the true number of children with lead poisoning is materially higher," page three of the complaint reads.
“What the U.S. Attorney proved was a kick in the gut and shocked people to the core," HUD Regional Director for NY and NJ Lynne Patton said. "There was a systematic cover up at NYCHA every time our inspectors visited the property."
About 600 plus pages of documents from HUD, which include dozens of emails and lists of buildings across the city impacted by lead, were reviewed by PIX11.
Emails show a growing frustration for information. In one, a HUD manager asked NYCHA to “...enhance our engagement.”
One email from a HUD manager to NYCHA mentioned Flint, Michigan.
“Gentlemen, HUD is doing some sampling of lead based paint testing," the email reads. "This is related to Flint problems and is not related to the media inquiries in NYC.”
Since that email, the U.S. Attorney’s office seized records from a Long Island City NYCHA headquarters.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson will be visiting NYCHA within the coming weeks. PIX11 News will be with the Secretary Carson at that time.
A NYCHA spokesperson declined comment on this story.