Personal InjuryHidden Dangers of Living in an Old Building in New York City

September 19, 202214

To the newcomer, especially, there’s something about living in New York City that seems nostalgic, even romantic at first. The whole walkable lifestyle, the idea of so many apartments in so many multi-story buildings, each having its rich history and charm. But the downside to living in an “old” city like New York is that many of the buildings are old. Hundreds of these buildings easily date back to before World War II—many date back over a century—and many have the same basic infrastructure as when they were built. This leaves plenty of opportunity for hidden issues and even dangerous conditions to lurk. If you’re currently living in one of these older structures, here are a few hidden dangers you should be aware of.

Lead Paint

Lead wasn’t banned from paint in the U.S. until 1978, and many buildings in NYC still have lead paint on their walls and windowsills. This lead is toxic to humans, and it can cause brain damage, especially in children. Even if your apartment has been painted over several times, any lingering lead can be released into the air if the walls are sanded and stripped before repainting. If you live in an old apartment and notice chipping paint, you might want to have the place tested for lead.

Lead Pipes

Another possible source of dangerous lead is in the plumbing of an old building. Lead pipes were common once upon a time, and although most of this plumbing has been replaced, a few lead pipes may still linger. As they deteriorate with age, they can leak lead into your drinking water, posing a threat both to you and your children.

Outdated Electrical Systems

Many early buildings used non-grounded outlets, especially before 1960. In some very old buildings, you might even find the old knob-and-tube electrical systems (often identified by on-off buttons instead of light switches) that haven’t been used in many decades. Both systems can present increased fire dangers, both from a lack of grounding and from deteriorating wires and insulation.

Toxic Mold

Between NYC’s humid climate and the abundance of dark spaces with possible leaking roofs and pipes, many old buildings in NYC are a perfect breeding ground for toxic black mold, which can make some people very ill. Mold has been especially problematic in public housing in NYC, and while NYCHA has a mandate to deal with the problem, it’s often still a challenge due to costs and red tape.

If you live in one of New York’s older buildings, and you suspect that the building has one or more of these lurking hidden dangers, it’s important to know you have the right to demand action from your landlord to address these issues. If you or your family have been hurt or made ill by one of these issues, you may also be entitled to compensation. Unfortunately, many management companies and landlords drag their feet in dealing with these problems, and that’s where we can help. Give us a call to schedule an appointment and explore your options.

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