Councilman Daniel Dromm and Assemblyman Francisco Moya joined plaintiffs and their attorneys on Monday to announce the legal action.
Dromm said after repeated attempts to get the MTA to repaint the chipping elevated structure and take care of pigeon poop raining down on pedestrians, their “only alternative” was to pursue a lawsuit.
“The lawsuit alleges that the MTA has wrongfully, knowingly, deliberately, intentionally and as a matter of policy permitted a dangerous condition to exist,” Dromm said, “and to continue to exist by causing these structures to be covered with lead-contaminated paint and other toxic substances.”
The suit also accuses the MTA of failing to adequately inspect and maintain the structure, failure to remediate or minimize the hazardous conditions, and falsely representing the health hazards that exist.
The plaintiffs are not seeking monetary relief, but rather “equitable relief,” officials said, which would force the MTA to take action.
“All you have to do is look up there and you can see the paint chips falling down on the ground,” Dromm said. “You can see the structure is in very bad shape. I’m surprised it hasn’t fallen down.”
Earlier this April, members of District 9 International Union of Painters and Allied Trades collected samples of paint chips that fell from the elevated trestle. According to the union, the samples showed lead levels at 244,000 parts per million, which is nearly 49 times the “acceptable” level of 5,000 parts per million.
Dromm said the structure from the 103rd Street station in Corona to the 52nd Street station in Woodside have not been painted in more than three decades.
“It has been an ongoing situation for our community for a number of years,” said Assemblyman Francisco Moya. “This isn’t something new.”
Plaintiff Tammy Rose, executive director of the Jackson Heights Early Learning Center, said children are most vulnerable as they walk underneath the trestles everyday.
“We’re just asking the MTA to live up to their mission statement,” Rose said. “The MTA needs to step it up.”
Other plaintiffs include Dudley Stewart, president of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance, and business owner Eddie Valentin.
Attorney Dan Woodard from the law firm Phillips & Paolicelli said the MTA has not attempted to remediate a public health hazard.
“This constitutes a severe risk, not only to young children who traverse under this train trestle, but also to pregnant women and to children in utero,” Woodard said. “Lead paint is known to cause severe brain injuries to young children at very low levels. The MTA is aware of this hazard, and has done nothing to remediate it.”