Environment Protection Committee Approves Bill to Monitor Lead in NYC Parks Soil

Costa Constantinides, candidate for Queens Borough President, announced his historic climate plan for the borough. Also present were, at left, Queens College Prof. Stephen Pekar, who specializes in climate change, and at right, Bridget Klapinski, President of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association. Photo: Courtesy of Constantinides' campaign

ASTORIA – The Committee on Environmental Protection this afternoon passed a bill that requires soil be tested at New York City Parks for lead whenever the Parks Department conducts a capital project. The unanimous vote on January 21 pushed the legislation to the full City Council for a vote on Thursday, January 23 at the body’s stated meeting.

“Lead has left a harmful legacy in our City, one that continues to expose us to harmful toxins whenever we go for a drink of water or get some respite at a park,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection and prime sponsor of Intro. 420-B. “This bill will guarantee we continue to monitor for lead and remediate it wherever high concentrations are found. I want to applaud and thank Speaker Corey Johnson for his leadership on combating lead contamination throughout New York City.”

Constantinides introduced the bill in 2018 as part of a sweeping package of bills to remediate lead. The harmful substance has been banned in New York City for decades, but its remnants remain in some of the Big Apple’s older infrastructure. That includes parks located on formerly industrial sites or those in close proximity to highways, where cars spewed lead-fueled exhaust for decades.

If the bill is passed by the full Council on Thursday, the Department of Parks & Recreation must study the soil for lead wherever it conducts a capital project. If the concentration exceeds 400 parts per million, which is the level set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The Department must close off and remediate any area where lead is high if it’s used for play or general recreation.

A WNYC story last year illustrated the high level of lead in some New York City Parks. In western Queens’ Astoria Park, one soil sample exceeded the EPA-mandated 400 parts per million level. One section of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, meanwhile, had a soil sample with a lead level of 543 parts per million, far above the federal level.

Council Member Costa Constantinides represents the New York City Council’s 22nd District, which includes his native Astoria along with parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights. He serves as the chair of the City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee and sits on three additional committees: Sanitation, Resiliency, and Technology.

For more information, visit council.nyc.gov/costa.