As toxic chemicals spewed from light fixtures at Upper West Side schools over the past couple of years, the city Department of Education essentially told parents that they’d deal with it, eventually. The chemicals, called PCBs, were used in light fixtures until the 1970’s, but they have been shown to cause cancer in animals and probably in humans. This is a particularly big issue on the UWS: after PCBs leaked out of a fixture at PS 87 this year, the Department of Education didn’t tell parents about it for months.
The city had said the schools would be PCB-free in 10 years. But parents were not willing to wait a decade for the chemicals to be removed, and took the city to court.
On Tuesday, parents won a battle to make the city speed up the removal. In court-ordered mediation, the city agreed to remove the PCB-light fixtures by 2016, instead of their original timeline of 2021.
“Today, New York City public school students and their families can finally breathe a sigh of relief after the New York City Department of Education (DOE) was forced to agree to abandon its reckless 10-year PCB remediation timeline. For years, I have battled, along with parents, teachers, advocates and community members to force the DOE act responsibly and in the best interests of the health and safety of our children by removing a carcinogen and known neurotoxin from our kid’s schools. After foolishly defending this law suit, the DOE has been forced to see the light.”
The city claims they were planing to do this all along:
“Since the beginning of this proposed plan, I have always said that we would reassess the timeline once we had a better understanding of the work,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott in a statement.