New York will be accelerating more than $1 billion dollars worth of work on infrastructure projects already in the city’s capital plan, including the removal of PCB-tainted light fixtures from New York City public schools.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg cautioned that these are not big-ticket items. “The bulk of them are completely unglamorous,” he said, adding that most of them can be completed within a 20-month time frame in order to take advantage of low interest rates.
The Department of Education had previously stated it would take about 10 years to replace all of the contaminated light fixtures, which were found in nearly 800 older school buildings. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were used in the devices that regulate electric current for fluorescent lights. Long-term exposure can lead to cancer and affect immune and reproductive systems. They were banned from new construction in 1979.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn acknowledged that although the city had been working to replace lights containing PCB’s, many parents and teachers worried they were taking too long.
“We have heard parents and teachers raise desperate concerns about this for a long time and we in the council and the Bloomberg administration have responded,” she said, calling the removal of the lights a priority in the accelerated plan.