Long Island Toxic Mold Victims to Get Relocation AssistanceDec 13, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP
Victims of toxic mold at a Long Island apartment complex will get some be able to get some financial help. Dozens of low-income families who pay lower rent at the mold-ridden Archstone-Smith Westbury luxury apartments will receive money to help pay rent when they relocate, Archstone and county officials said. Each family will receive the difference between the market-rate rent of their apartment and what they're paying now, said Nassau County's director of housing and homeless services. The money, which could total nearly $2,000 a month per apartment, will be paid by Archstone—a Colorado-based company that developed and manages the complex— which told occupants they need to leave by March. It is expected that removal of the toxic substance and repairs could take up to a year to complete. The company promised the Town of Hempstead in 2002 it would set aside 20 percent of the 400-unit luxury complex for low-income residents who would pay lower rent. The complex, completed in 2005, is on the site of the former Roosevelt Raceway paddock area.
Residents say they've endured leaky windows and grotesque mold in their homes, have been sickened with respiratory ailments, and reported water problems as far back as 2005. Moisture leaked into the inner walls, soaking insulation, and potentially compromising interior mechanical systems and structural safety. Tenants say Archstone painted over damage instead of correcting problems. Archstone did not test for mold because there is no governmental standard for mold levels. In 2003, Archstone agreed to pay $25 million to 800 tenants of a Florida complex for health-related issues resulting from a mold. Archstone owns or is an owner in 350 properties—89,000 units—nationwide and claims Westbury’s problems are not consistent with Florida’s where the issue was due to a faulty HVAC [heating ventilation and air conditioning] system.
The rent subsidy will be delivered to tenants quarterly. Also, the company is giving all residents a relocation package that includes free rent for the final 30 days at Archstone and a one-time payment between $1,300 and $1,900 to help with moving costs. Archstone could not guarantee all tenants would be able to move back into their units.
Various molds—especially toxic molds—have long been a public concern, especially on Long Island whose increasing problems with mold is blamed on dampness, especially in basements of older structures; however, codes require newer buildings to be airtight, thus moisture can be trapped and mold can grow. Mold and dampness are factors in 21 percent of asthma cases, cost the nation $3.5 billion yearly in health care expenses, and increase the risk of respiratory- and asthma-related illnesses by up to 50 percent. Molds sometimes become so embedded that entire walls must be removed to rid structures of the invasion. On Long Island, the most common forms include Penicillium, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Stachybotrys chartarum, the toxic, pathogenic—producing spores called mycotoxins—black mold.
Toxic mold has been the source of lawsuits and disability payments and, in 2004, an Institute of Medicine panel—an arm of the National Academies that advises Congress on health issues—concluded indoor mold and dampness are linked to respiratory symptoms and asthma in vulnerable people. Concentrated mold exposure can cause chronic cough, headaches, rashes, dizziness, excessive bruising, hearing and memory loss, and can inhibit DNA and protein synthesis, obstructing body functions.