Reversals, Reinstatements, and Rhetoric Local Law 38 vs. Intro 101

In a widely publicized 2000 case, the New York Supreme Court (First Department) issued a judgment annulling New York City's then-newly enacted lead-based paint law, commonly referred to as Local Law 38. The case was immediately appealed, and throughout 2001, confusion prevailed as to which lead paint regulations were actually in effect.

On Tuesday, March 26 of this year, the Supreme Court's decision was reversed on appeal. The Appellate Court's unanimous opinion (New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, 1st Department) supported what is described as the central premise of Local Law 38: namely that monitoring and containment - rather than total removal (abatement) of lead paint - reduces environmental threats to human health.

In his opinion for the court, Associate Justice John T. Buckley wrote, "Nullifying Local Law 38 would reinstate the prior lead-based paint prevention law (Local Law 1), which was based on removal - not containment - and thus pose a greater threat to public health. If affirmed, it would place the City of New York in immediate contempt of outstanding orders in former litigations over Local Law 1 and leave the City without any effective and safe methods of dealing with the persistent lead paint hazards."

The court also found that the City Council sufficiently reviewed all salient issues - including effects on the environment - before crafting Local Law 38, which struck the court as a "suitable balance of social, economic, and environmental factors."

New Council, New Act

The controversy did not end with this long-awaited decision, however.

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