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NYC Congressional Delegation Urges Federal Government to Aid in Remediation of Mold in Wake of Superstorm Sandy

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representatives Yvette D. Clarke, Jerrold Nadler and members of the New York City Congressional Delegation have called for immediate action on behalf of homeowners whose property were left uninhabitable and in need of mold abatement after Superstorm Sandy. In a joint letter to Shaun Donovan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the delegation requested federal oversight and aid with assessment, removal and remediation of mold, in coordination with property owners and local agencies.  

“New Yorkers have waited long enough for the federal government to act and provide the critical support needed to help rebuild their communities,” stated Representative Yvette D. Clarke. “Three months after Superstorm Sandy, homeowners remain at risk for several illnesses due to mold infestation and exposure to other threats. We cannot afford to jeopardize the welfare of our constituents and communities with incessant delays – it is our responsibility to respond to their needs, immediately and efficiently.” 

Below and attached is the full text of the letter:

The Honorable Shaun Donovan
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 Seventh Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20410

Dear Secretary Donovan:

We have serious concerns about the lack of resources that have been provided for mold abatement in the neighborhoods flooded in Hurricane Sandy.  We write to you in your capacity as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and as Chairman of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of New York home and small business owners whose property was devastated, and depend on us to support them in this difficult period of time.  The extensive disaster-related damage to their homes and businesses has resulted in the potential for exposure to hazardous mold.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), parts of structures that have been flooded for more than forty-eight hours and cannot be completely dried remain a source of mold and must be removed.  As you know, the disruption of electrical power severely inhibited the extraction of water – the pumping and drying of homes and businesses required several weeks to complete.  As a result, the damaged homes and businesses were saturated, resulting in extensive mold contamination within walls and on structures and interior surfaces, causing health-related problems and increasing costs of repairs.  These individuals are in need of assistance with the remediation and repair of their damaged homes and businesses.

These homeowners and small business owners require assistance with, but not limited to, the following:

• The assessment of mold contamination, and reimbursement for all costs related to remediation – either through force account or a contractor.

• Removal of contaminated wall board, dry-wall, gypsum board, plaster (or similar wall finishes), books and paper, carpet and backing or floor finishes, ceiling tiles, cellulose insulation, fiberglass insulation, hard surfaces, porous flooring) linoleum, ceramic tile and vinyl), window drapes,  and ceilings or permanent light fixtures.

• Coordinated remediation of common spaces, and of contaminated heating and ventilation systems (including ductwork), plumbing, and air conditioning systems, or other mechanical equipment.

We are also troubled by reports that some homes and businesses might have been deemed ineligible for assistance from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), particularly as it relates to mold abatement.  It is our understanding that mold remediation is an eligible expense, at least in certain circumstances, and it has been addressed in previous natural disasters including Hurricane Katrina through the use of Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding.

Therefore, we respectfully request that you make every effort to urge and assist local governments of Sandy-affected areas to implement mold remediation programs in order to help impacted homeowners and small businesses.

The residents of the affected storm ravaged areas are in a state of an emergency.  Environmental contamination has not been adequately addressed, and could lead to serious health concerns such as allergic reactions, asthma, other lung related illnesses as well as compromised immune systems and lower resilience to illness.  The longer this problem remains ignored by the federal government, the higher the risk of danger and expense to the health of our constituents and communities.

We thank you in advance for your consideration of this matter.  As you are aware, time is of the essence.  It is our hope to receive a written response from you informing us of next steps for addressing this emerging crisis.  If you or members of your staff have any comments, questions, or concerns regarding this immediate and important matter, please do not hesitate to contact the offices of the undersigned.

Very truly yours,
Yvette D. Clarke, Member of Congress
Jerrold Nader, Member of Congress
Charles Rangel, Member of Congress
Eliot Engel, Member of Congress
Carolyn B. Maloney, Member of Congress
Joseph Crowley, Member of Congress
José E. Serrano, Member of Congress
Nydia Velázquez, Member of Congress
Steve Israel, Member of Congress
Gregory Meeks, Member of Congress
Hakeem Jeffries, Member of Congress
Grace Meng, Member of Congress

U.S. Representative Yvette D. Clarke is a member of the House Committee on Small Business, Ethics, and Homeland Security, where she is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies. She represents several neighborhoods in central and southern Brooklyn, NY which includes Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Gerritsen Beach, Madison, Midwood, Ocean Hill, parts of Park Slope and Flatlands, Prospect Heights, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Sheepshead Bay, and Windsor Terrace.