Attorney General James closes Syracuse landlord who exposed children to lead poisoning

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Endzone properties prohibited from owning or managing rental
Properties in New York must pay $215,000

Landlord failed to maintain lead safe conditions in rental properties,
At least 18 children poisoned by lead

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced an agreement resolving her lawsuit against landlord John Kiggins and his company, Endzone Properties, Inc., for failing to protect children from the dangers of lead paint in Syracuse. The lawsuit, filed in October 2021, alleged that Kiggins and Endzone endangered the health of its tenants, mostly children, by repeatedly violating lead paint laws and failing to properly address associated hazards. As a result, at least 18 children residing at 17 different properties owned or managed by Endzone were poisoned with lead.

Today’s agreement, negotiated in partnership with Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse, permanently prohibits Kiggins and Endzone from managing or owning residential rental properties in New York State. The agreement also requires Kiggins and Endzone to pay $215,000 which will be used to prevent children’s exposure to lead paint in the city of Syracuse or Onondaga County, and/or to provide assistance to affected families. by lead poisoning.

“Lead paint exposure is a dangerous scourge on New York communities that disproportionately affects our black and brown children,” said Attorney General James. “Too often, unscrupulous landlords like Endzone disregard their duty to ensure their properties are free from lead hazards and its harms. I hold Endzone fully responsible for their deplorable and illegal actions, and I will continue to use the full force of my office to uphold the laws that protect our children from lead poisoning.

In 2020, an investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that over a period of more than six years, at least 18 children were poisoned by lead paint while residing at 17 of the estimated 89 properties in ‘End zone. During that same time period, at least 32 Endzone properties were reported by the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County for chipping, peeling, paint deterioration and other conditions conducive to lead poisoning, which are prohibited by county and city laws. The OAG also found that Kiggins and Endzone engaged in repeated illegal and fraudulent acts either by failing to provide federally required lead disclosures or by providing materially false and misleading lead disclosures to tenants and buyers. Endzone properties.

Endzone has sold all properties it owned and all properties it once managed are now under new management. All violations found in the OAG investigation, as well as all violations reported by the county and city, have been resolved at currently occupied properties.

Lead is a highly toxic metal that can cause serious and irreversible adverse health effects. Children who have been exposed to even very low levels of lead are at risk for neurological and physical problems during critical stages of early development. In fact, no safe lead levels in children have been identified. Children under the age of 6 are more likely to be exposed to lead than any other age group because their normal behaviors could lead them to chew on lead paint chips; inhale or swallow dust from old lead paint that gets on floors, window sills and hands; and lead can be found in soil, toys and other consumer products.

Lead paint in residential homes has been a pervasive problem for decades, especially in New York City. Beginning in the 20th century, paint containing dangerously high levels of lead was used on the exterior and interior surfaces of homes in the United States. Lead paint was found in about 43% of all New York homes. Although New York banned the use of lead paint in 1970, with the federal government following suit in 1978, buildings built before 1978 often still have lead paint. Over 90% of Syracuse’s housing stock was built before 1978. The vast majority of this housing was built before New York banned lead paint in 1970.

Lead poisoning in Onondaga County occurs primarily in Syracuse and disproportionately harms low-income communities and communities of color. As of 2012, 87% of all lead poisoned children in Onondaga County were from Syracuse. The data also shows that black children are twice as likely as white children to have high blood lead levels – nearly 23% of black children in Onondaga County tested for lead had dangerous levels of lead. blood lead, while less than 11% of white children tested had dangerous levels of blood lead. Additionally, children from households living at or below the federal poverty line are at greater risk of lead exposure than children from households above the federal poverty line.

Attorney General James thanks Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse for their partnership in this case. The OAG will continue to work with them and other dedicated local partners to continue to make progress in the fight against childhood lead poisoning in the region.

“Resolving the lead issue in our community is one that my administration has made a top priority. From our local executive order withholding rent payments to landlords knowingly exposing their tenants to lead to investing millions of dollars in lead remediation in 2022 alone, Onondaga County has fully committed to truly solving the lead problem plaguing our community,” said Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon. “To be truly successful, however, we need partners and Attorney General James has been a trusted partner in our fight against lead poisoning and owner accountability. This agreement with Endzone Properties is proof of that collaboration, and I thank the Attorney General and his team for their partnership in this effort.

“The message is clear: Homeowners who repeatedly put children and families at risk of lead poisoning are not welcome in the city of Syracuse. I thank Attorney General James and our Onondaga County partners for helping us put an end to the malpractices of John Kiggins and Endzone Properties once and for all,” said Ben Walsh, Mayor of Syracuse. “We need continued help from all levels of government to protect tenants from landlords who don’t address lead hazards. There’s no way to look away. The future of our children is at stake.

“As a pediatrician, when I see children with lead poisoning, it’s usually too late to prevent the worst effects on their developing brains, which is why public health professionals have worked so hard to prevent exposure. to lead over the years,” said Dr. Travis Hobart, MD, MPH, FAAP, Medical Director, Central/Eastern New York Lead Poisoning Resource Center. “I am grateful to the Attorney General’s Office for using its power to protect some of the most vulnerable children in our community, and I look forward to continuing to work with all of our partners to address this important issue.”

“We thank Attorney General Letitia James for pursuing this important case,” said Paul Ciavarri, Community Organizer, Legal Services of Central New York. “Today’s announcement is welcome news and sends a strong message that it is intolerable to promise the safety of a place to live just to create danger. We acknowledge the hard work of the Attorney General’s legal team in bringing this case to a speedy and successful conclusion. And we greatly appreciate the Attorney General’s willingness to heed the call to action from local stakeholders, including Families for Lead Freedom Now, and pursue a clear line against childhood lead poisoning in Syracuse.

Attorney General James is pursuing legal action across New York to end the scourge of childhood lead poisoning by holding accountable landlords who allow lead paint hazards to proliferate in low-cost rental properties. revenue. In September 2021, Attorney General James announced a settlement in his lawsuit against Chestnut Holdings, a property management company, for its failure to protect children from the dangers of lead paint in New York City. Earlier in September 2021, she entered into a pre-suit agreement with A&E Holdings to ensure that children living in her New York apartments are protected from dangerous lead-based paints. Additionally, in September 2020, Attorney General James sued a group of Buffalo individuals and businesses for repeated violations of city, county, state, and federal laws by unlawfully allowing the dangers of lead paint from accumulating in their rental properties.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Abigail Katowitz and Patrick Omilian, environmental scientist Jennifer Nalbone, investigator Joseph Kelly and project assistant Isabel Murphy, all under the supervision of the head of the Office of Environmental Protection. Lemuel M. Srolovic. The Environmental Protection Bureau is part of the Social Justice Division, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux, and all under the supervision of Senior Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

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