Pridgen must apologize for putting tenants at risk

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Councilman Darius Pridgen is circulating a two paragraph legal opinion on social media, appearing to be on the stationary of Harter, Secrest & Emory, making the claim that the residents at his True Bethel Townhomes development are not at risk of exposure to lead.

We will be disecting the precise meaning of this attorney’s opinion letter — which was paid for to articulate the view of a client. This opinion is not proof that the land is safe for habitation, given the nature of lead poisoning. Pridgen has not yet shared the full document with The Chronicle. 

This publication understands that remediation efforts at the site were too limited in scope to fully mitigate the public health risks associated with the lead smelting site, as the DEC itself has stated in public documents. Much of the site has not been remediated at all, like lands under the used car lot next door, which was a dumping ground for toxic ash, a byproduct of metal processing, for nearly six decades.

With runoff water during strong rains and natural ground water movement, it is only prudent to acknowledge the overwhelming likelihood of contamination of the parcel at 858 East Ferry to be nearly as dangerous as it was prior to the limited remediation conducted “onsite.”

The distinction between “onsite” and “offsite” contamination is being embellished by the Councilman to distract and confuse. Soil contamination extends far to the West of the parcel at 858 East Ferry, including lands surrounding the youth detention center and the lands within the railroad right of way that runs adjacent to the site.

When some contaminated soil was removed at the 858 East Ferry parcel, the DEC did not remove soil deeply enough nor did they remove vast amounts of toxic ash next door.

For the Councilman to think that the land at 858 East Ferry is safe for human habitation is unconscionably disingenuous and is so ignorant of the science that his judgement must be questioned. For an attorney to draft an overtly political document and be willing to make claims that should be left to scientists and public health experts is inappropriate. It’s more than inappropriate: it’s offensive to people who are sick and have no patience for PR tactics.

Even exposure to the smallest amounts of lead can have lifelong impacts.

At its lowest level of exposure, lead can cause a decreased IQ and lifelong learning disabilities. At slightly higher levels of exposure, it can cause behavioral disorders like hyperactivity and irritability. At moderately high levels, lead will cause apathy, anemia, abdominal pain, constipation, nausea, and vomiting. At elevated levels, lead can cause kidney disease, colic, and brain disfunction. At very high levels of exposure, lead can cause brain swelling, stroke, seizures, ischemia, and death.

The Ferry Fields are affectionately remembered in the community as a place where young children would play field sports and where older teens would hide in the bushes along the railroad tracks with friends.

The Councilman should warn his congregation about these risks. We know that the poor, and minorities particularly, are at greater risk and bear the vestiges of the region’s industrial past.

Rather than a frenzied panic that haphazardly slanders critics as liars; that dismisses serious public health risks as nonsense because it makes him look bad; that shames a congregation into silence that impacts their personal health; perhaps the landlord of ministry fame should indulge himself a mea culpa and work to do right by god.

That begins with doing right by his tenants.

He can start by talking to his constituents about risk factors. Children under 6 years are at particularly high risk because they spend more time on the floor, have increased hand to mouth behavior, have a high absorption to lead, and are rapidly developing their central nervous system. Other risk factors include:

  • Lives or spends significant amounts of time in pre-1978 housing/buildings with paint in poor condition or undergoing renovation
  • Exposure to lead contaminated dust or soil
  • Family member who works with lead
  • Mother with history of lead exposure/lead poisoning
  • Pica (ingestion of non-food items such as pottery, clay, dirt, plaster and paint chips)
  • Family member with hobby exposure (e.g., stained glass, ceramics, firearms, fishing)
  • Use of certain imported remedies/supplements/cosmetics
  • Use of some types of traditional/imported/handmade dishware
  • Consumption of lead contaminated foods (e.g., Chapulines, some Mexican candy, some imported spices)
  • Exposure to lead contaminated consumer products
  • Lives near source of lead air emissions
  • Exposure to lead contaminated water source

In moments of crisis, people want to feel like soldiers — not victims. To sweep under the rug information that could have helped someone protect her kids is unthinkable. And for such behavior to be so apparently motivated by narcissism and ego, is dishearteningly sad. In moments of crisis, we need leadership not self-interest.

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