A New York City Councilman has introduced a bill to try to address the ongoing mold crisis left behind by Hurricane Sandy last year.
The problem is that many homes that have become infested with mold have been abandoned by their owners, leaving neighboring homeowners to deal with the issue.
The position of the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is that the current law doesn’t allow the agency to go after mold in the way they can address other health concerns if a homeowner fails to do so.
The legislation, sponsored by Councilman James Oddo, would add mold into a list other health nuisances, and allow the health department to order a homeowner to remove it. If the homeowner fails to do so after a set period of time, the legislation would empower the department to execute the order to remove the mold.
“We’ve tried to create a mechanism that balances public safety and property rights, and is a necessity resulting from the reality on the ground in our Sandy-impacted communities,” Oddo said.
The idea of the bill is to compel homeowners to clean up their property — and if they or the bank that owns it won’t, then the city can take action.
The health department said the agency hadn’t seen the legislation and couldn’t comment on it. The agency doesn’t consider mold in a neighboring home a health risk.
Oddo said that living next to a home that is filled with out-of-control mold can be “psychologically devastating” and should be considered a health risk.
In response to criticism from Oddo and others, the health department issued a statement defending how it has addressed the issue since the storm hit.
“Since the days immediately following the hurricane, the Health Department has been working across agencies to provide information and guidance on the risks of mold and how to safely reconstruct to avoid future mold growth,” the agency said.
The information was handed out at recovery centers door-to-door, under doors, and at community meetings, the department noted.
“The Department worked with the Mayor’s Fund to establish a first-of-its-kind mold abatement training program and in a collaboration with the Mayor’s Fund, Robin Hood Foundation and Red Cross to provide cleanup services for homeowners needing additional resources to remove mold and reconstruct their homes,” the agency added.