Attorney General James Shuts Down Syracuse Landlord That Exposed Children to Lead Poisoning

Endzone Properties Barred from Owning or Managing Rental
Properties in New York, Must Pay $215,0000

Landlord Failed to Maintain Lead-Safe Conditions in Rental Properties,
Resulting in At Least 18 Children Poisoned With Lead

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced an agreement resolving her lawsuit against landlord John Kiggins and his company, Endzone Properties, Inc., for failing to protect children from lead paint hazards in Syracuse. The lawsuit, filed in October 2021, alleged that Kiggins and Endzone endangered the health of its tenants, primarily children, by repeatedly violating lead paint laws and failing to properly address related hazards. As a result, at least 18 children residing in 17 different properties owned or managed by Endzone experienced lead poisoning.  

Today’s agreement, negotiated in partnership with Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse, permanently bans Kiggins and Endzone from managing or owning residential rental properties in the state of New York. The agreement also requires Kiggins and Endzone to pay $215,000 that will be used to prevent the exposure of children to lead paint within the City of Syracuse or Onondaga County, and/or to provide assistance to the families affected by lead poisoning.

“Lead paint exposure is a dangerous scourge on New York’s communities that disproportionately impacts our Black and brown children,” said Attorney General James. “All too often, unprincipled landlords like Endzone disregard their duty to ensure their properties are free of lead hazards and its harms. I am holding Endzone fully accountable for their deplorable and illegal actions, and I will continue to use the full force of my office to uphold the laws that protect our children from lead poisoning.”

In 2020, an investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that over a period of more than six years, at least 18 children were poisoned by lead paint while residing in 17 of Endzone’s estimated 89 properties. During this same period, at least 32 Endzone properties were flagged by the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County for chipping, peeling, deteriorating paint, and other conditions conducive to lead poisoning, which are prohibited by county and city laws. The OAG also found that Kiggins and Endzone engaged in repeated illegal and fraudulent acts by either not providing federally required lead disclosures or providing materially false and deceptive lead disclosures to tenants and purchasers of Endzone properties.

Endzone has sold all the properties it owned and all of the properties it once managed are now under new management. All violations found in OAG’s investigation, as well as all those flagged by the county and city, have been resolved in properties that are currently occupied.

Lead is a highly toxic metal that can cause serious and irreversible adverse health effects. Children who have been exposed to even very low levels of lead are at risk for neurological and physical problems during critical stages of early development. In fact, no safe lead level in children has been identified. Children under the age of 6 are more likely to be exposed to lead than any other age group, as their normal behaviors could result in them chewing lead paint chips; breathing in or swallowing dust from old lead paint that gets on floors, windowsills, and hands; and lead can be found in soil, toys, and other consumer products.

Lead paint in residential housing has been a pervasive problem for decades, particularly in New York. Beginning in the 20th century, paint with dangerously high levels of lead was used on both exterior and interior surfaces of housing in the United States. Lead paint has been found in approximately 43 percent of all of New York dwellings. Although New York banned the use of lead paint in 1970, with the federal government following suit in 1978, buildings constructed prior to 1978 often still have lead paint. More than 90 percent of Syracuse’s housing stock was constructed prior to 1978. The vast majority of these dwellings were constructed before New York banned lead paint in 1970.

Lead poisoning in Onondaga County occurs predominantly within Syracuse, and disproportionately harms low-income communities and communities of color. Since 2012, 87 percent of all lead poisoned children in Onondaga County were from Syracuse. Data also shows that Black children are twice as likely as white children to have elevated blood lead levels — almost 23 percent of Black children in Onondaga County tested for lead had dangerous levels of lead in their blood, while less than 11 percent of white children tested had dangerous blood lead levels. Additionally, children from households living at or below the federal poverty line are at a greater risk of exposure to lead than children from households above the federal poverty line.

Attorney General James thanks Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse for their partnership in this matter. The OAG will continue to work with them and other dedicated local partners to continue to make progress in combatting childhood lead poisoning in the region.

“Addressing the issue of lead in our community is one that my administration has made a top priority. Whether it be our local executive order that withholds rent payments to landlords knowingly exposing their tenants to lead or investing millions of dollars in lead remediation just in 2022, Onondaga County is fully committed truly solving the lead issue plaguing our community,” said Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon. “In order to be truly successful, however, we need partners and Attorney General James has been a reliable partner in our fight against lead poisoning and holding landlords accountable. This agreement with Endzone Properties is proof of that collaboration, and I thank the attorney general and her team for their partnership in this effort.”

“The message is clear: Landlords who repeatedly put children and families at risk of lead poisoning are not welcome in the City of Syracuse. I thank Attorney General James and our partners at Onondaga County for helping us put a stop to the bad practices of John Kiggins and Endzone Properties once and for all,” said Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh. “We need the ongoing assistance of every level of government to protect tenants from property owners who aren’t addressing lead hazards. There is no looking the other way. The futures of our children are at stake.”

“As a pediatrician, when I see kids with lead poisoning it’s usually too late to prevent the worst effects on their developing brains, which is why people in public health have worked so hard to prevent lead exposure over the years,” said Dr. Travis Hobart, MD, MPH, FAAP, medical director, Central/Eastern New York Lead Poisoning Resource Center. “I’m thankful to the Office of the Attorney General for using its power to protect some of the most vulnerable children in our community, and I look forward to continuing to work with all of our partners to address this important issue.”

“We thank Attorney General Letitia James for pursuing this important case,” said Paul Ciavarri, community organizer, Legal Services of Central New York. “Today’s announcement is welcome news and communicates a strong message of just how intolerable it is to promise the safety of a place to live only to deliver danger. We acknowledge the hard work of the attorney general’s legal team to bring this case to a swift and successful conclusion. And we greatly appreciate the attorney general’s willingness to pay attention to the call for action from local stakeholders, including Families for Lead Freedom Now, and to pursue a bright line against childhood lead poisoning in Syracuse.” 

Attorney General James is pursuing legal actions across New York to end the scourge of childhood lead poisoning by holding accountable landlords that allow lead paint-related hazards to proliferate in low-income rental properties. In September 2021, Attorney General James announced an agreement in her lawsuit against Chestnut Holdings, a property management corporation, over its failures to protect children from lead paint hazards in New York City. Earlier in September 2021, she reached a pre-suit agreement with A&E Holdings to ensure that children living in its New York City apartments are protected from dangerous lead-based paint. Additionally, in September 2020, Attorney General James sued a group of Buffalo individuals and companies for repeated violations of city, county, state, and federal laws by illegally allowing lead paint-related hazards to accumulate in their rental properties.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Abigail Katowitz and Patrick Omilian, Environmental Scientist Jennifer Nalbone, Investigator Joseph Kelly, and Project Assistant Isabel Murphy, all under the supervision of Environmental Protection Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic. The Environmental Protection Bureau is a part of the Division of Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux, and all under the oversight of First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.