Queens Residents Sue Over Paint, Pigeon Droppings Falling From Subway

BROOKLYN (CN) – A group of Queens residents sued the Metropolitan Transportation Authority over the toxic lead paint chips and pigeon excrement they say rain down onto streets and sidewalks from the 100-year-old elevated Flushing Subway Line.

The federal class action was filed Monday in Brooklyn by four Queens residents on behalf of residents and property owners who have to endure the elevated Flushing Line’s “copious amounts of peeling lead-based paint, rust, structural wear and pigeon droppings.”

The Flushing Line, also known as the No. 7, first began service in 1915.

Riders accuse the MTA of neglecting to maintain and clean up the hazardous condition of lead paint on the elevated subway, claiming it has made repeated false assurances that no health hazard exists “when it knows the opposite is the case.”

The proposed class calls the lead paint peeling off the MTA structures “a severe public health emergency” that releases toxic substances from the Flushing Line into the air and onto the soil, ground, sidewalks and roads underneath.

New York City’s Department of Health has called lead particularly harmful to children, saying it can cause learning and behavior problems, as well as delays in physical growth and mental development. New York City banned the use of lead paint in homes in 1960.

The class seeks a permanent injunction ordering the MTA to have an independent, court-appointed inspector conduct an investigation of the lead and other health hazards of the elevated structures of the Flushing Line, followed by abatement and elimination of all lead-related hazards.

They also seek blood testing of class residents, upon request, to ascertain if they require medical attention due to exposure to toxins released by the subway.

In addition to lead paint, Queens residents are also concerned about pigeon droppings falling from the Flushing Line.

The Department of Health warns about three human diseases associated with pigeon droppings: histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis and psittacosis, also known as ornithosis or parrot fever. It stresses that people with compromised immune systems, including HIV/AIDS or cancer patients, should not be directly involved in the removal of the droppings.

Highlighting the potential impact of hazards like lead paint and pigeon droppings, the complaint notes the prevalence of outdoor grocers and street-food vendors underneath the Flushing Line. In a recent episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown,” the globe-hopping food enthusiast praised Queens and the neighborhoods along the subway line as “a wonderland” of street-food vendors.

One plaintiff, Tammy Rose, says she runs a day care center in Sunnyside, Queens, where young children play outside less than 100 feet from the elevated line.

Co-plaintiff Eduardo Valentin runs Club Evolution in Jackson Heights on Roosevelt Avenue, which bills itself as “NYC’s hottest gay Latin club.” According to the complaint, the club is located directly underneath the Flushing Line.

The lawsuit claims the MTA violated the Civil Rights Act and the Clean Air Act, along with the Federal Employees Liability Act for a subclass of affect residents who are also MTA employees.

The proposed class is represented by Steven Phillips with Phillips & Paolicelli LLP in Manhattan.

Representatives from the MTA did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday afternoon.

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