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Syracuse Forced to Shut Down Lead Abatement Program as a Result of Federal Cuts

(c) Brad Spelich, WAER.

Syracuse’s successful program to remove lead from city homes will be shut down by year's end after being denied federal funding.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development did not approve the city's latest grant request. It is the first time they have denied such a request in almost 20 years.  Syracuse had received about $28 million in HUD grants, since 1995, to remove lead from more than 2,500 homes and apartments.  Mayor Stephanie Miner says the cut in funding means lead will not be removed from approximately 135 homes in Syracuse next year.

“We were very surprised. And ultimately surprised and bitterly disappointed because this is about children in the City of Syracuse. We have a very proud record, in our HUD program in particular, of working with the Department of Health, of remediating the issues that come out of us… And this will really impact children and their healthcare," ? Mayor Miner said Thursday.

Miner says 7% of Syracuse children under the age of 6 have elevated lead levels.  When ingested, it can cause brain damage and lead to developmental disabilities.  Back in May, Syracuse’s lead program was warned by federal officials that funding would be cut, because workers were presuming lead paint was present in all windows in a house, versus just a few that tested positive for lead.  

Credit (c) Brad Spelich, WAER.
The programs have fixed lead paint issues in about 2,500 homes and apartments that house young children since 1995.

  Mayor Miner says the issue is a new interpretation of the standards by HUD, and claims  Syracuse addressed their concerns.

          “We stopped our program. We went back to all of the houses that we had remediated, tested all of the windows. Within a month, we were up and running and using the model they told us. So it was really an issue of: They had changed their interpretation of the language midway through the grant… we fixed that. We discussed the issue with them and we settled this issue and got off the high risk list.”

Despite the changes made by the city, they and the county face a net loss of over $2 million in funding for their respective programs. Mayor Miner says the city plans to work closely with the county to determine how to best allocate Onondaga County's  grant of almost $4 million.  However, she believes that process will be difficult because it forces the local government to prioritize families.  

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at