Attorney General James Sues Syracuse Landlord for Failing to Properly Address Lead-Based Paint Hazards

William D’Angelo Repeatedly and Persistently Violated Lead Safety Laws at His Rental Properties, Where at Least 15 Children Were Poisoned by Lead
Lawsuit is Second Action Taken by AG James This Month to Address Lead Paint Hazards in Syracuse

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, and Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh today filed a lawsuit against William D’Angelo and his company Marpat LLC for repeatedly and persistently violating lead safety laws at nearly two dozen rental properties in Syracuse. Over the past seven years, there were 336 violations of lead safety laws at 22 different properties owned by D’Angelo. At least 15 children, 10 of them children of color, were poisoned by lead while living at these properties.

In the complaint filed today, Attorney General James, County Executive McMahon, and Mayor Walsh seek to require D’Angelo to pay thousands in restitution to the impacted families in addition to substantial penalties, and to disgorge all ill-gotten profits, such as rent payments. They are also seeking an order to stop D’Angelo’s harmful housing practices and require him to resolve all existing lead paint-related violations, conduct regular inspections of lead conditions within his properties, and implement proper safety measures moving forward.

“In Syracuse and throughout New York, children of color suffer the irreversible health effects of lead exposure at disproportionate rates,” said Attorney General James. “William D’Angelo violated more than our lead safety laws — he violated tenants’ trust and put families in danger. I will continue to fight to protect our children from lead poisoning by holding neglectful landlords accountable for their roles in exacerbating this public health crisis.”

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. Children under the age of six are more likely to be exposed to lead than any other age group, as their normal behaviors have resulted in chewing lead paint chips and breathing in or swallowing dust from old lead paint that gets on floors, windowsills, and hands.

Lead-based paint in residential housing is a pervasive problem in Syracuse because 81 percent of the housing stock was built before lead-based paint was banned in New York in 1970. Lead poisoning in Onondaga County is highest among children of color, the majority of whom live in Syracuse. In 2022, 510 children in Onondaga County had elevated levels of lead in their blood, and 90 percent of those children lived in Syracuse. More than 11 percent of the Black children tested in 2021 had elevated blood lead levels, compared to just two percent of white children tested.

Over the last 30 years, D’Angelo has owned and managed at least 48 rental properties with at least 116 individual rental units in Syracuse. According to city and county records, all of D’Angelo’s rental properties were built prior to 1940, and therefore are all presumed to contain lead-based paint. Most of these properties are in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

Since 2016, at least 22 of D’Angelo’s properties have been cited for conditions conducive to lead poisoning. Despite being cited numerous times for hundreds of lead-based paint violations, D’Angelo did not properly address these hazards at his properties. D’Angelo consistently failed to enforce lead-safe work practices and often employed untrained, uncertified workers to perform renovations, resulting in the creation and dispersal of lead-containing dust and paint chips in living areas. D’Angelo further violated lead safety regulations by refusing to disclose information about lead hazards related to renovations and the deteriorating state of the buildings to residents and potential tenants.

The complaint alleges that D’Angelo’s repeated and persistent violations of lead safety laws caused at least 15 children to be poisoned by lead while living at his properties. With this lawsuit, Attorney General James is seeking full disgorgement of all ill-gotten profits, such as rent payments received, and penalties of up to $5,000 for every false or misleading lead disclosure D’Angelo provided to tenants. Attorney General James is also seeking thousands of dollars in restitution for the families of every child poisoned by lead while living at a D’Angelo property.

The lawsuit also seeks robust injunctive relief to swiftly identify and eliminate lead paint hazards at all D’Angelo's properties in an order that would require D’Angelo to:

  • Immediately correct all existing lead paint-related violations cited by the city or county that are past their respective deadlines;
  • Require a lead-based paint risk assessment at each of D’Angelo’s residences through a third-party Environmental Protection Agency certified risk assessor approved by OAG; 
  • Create a Lead Safe Work Plan for removing and/or remediating all conditions conducive to lead poisoning following the inspection;
  • Promptly make any renovations necessary using EPA certified lead-based paint professionals and properly trained and certified workers; and
  • Hire an independent monitor to supervise and report to OAG on the defendants’ compliance.

Attorney General James thanks Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse for their close collaboration and partnership on this matter. 

“My administration has placed a laser-like focus on tackling the lead issue in our community. We have made historic investments which have allowed our community to truly and comprehensively tackle the lead issue at its root,” said Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon. “In order to be successful, however, we must have partners that are willing to hold landlords accountable who knowingly and callously put children at risk for lead poisoning. I want to thank Attorney General James and her team for being that partner and for their unwavering commitment and collaboration.”

“Every day, City of Syracuse code enforcement inspectors are identifying lead hazards in homes and taking action to get them corrected. Combined with health data from Onondaga County, this work makes it possible for Attorney General James to hold landlords accountable for ignoring lead hazards,” said Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh. “This is our third major action against Syracuse property owners who are disregarding the safety of their tenants. Landlords should be on notice: subjecting children and families to lead-based paint hazards will not be tolerated.”

“Far too many children are exposed to lead in their own homes here in Central New York, leading to lifelong learning problems,” said Dr. Travis Hobart, Medical Director of Central/Eastern NY Lead Poisoning Resource Center, SUNY Upstate Medical University. “I’m grateful to see so many stakeholders working together to protect kids from harm.”

“As a leader in Families for Lead Freedom Now, I am very glad to hear of this action from Attorney General Letitia James,” said Mrs. Darlene Medley, a parent of children suffering lead poisoning, and Founding Member of Families for Lead Freedom Now. “It’s about DAMN time landlords face consequences for the poisoning of our children. Our babies’ health should be protected in their homes, wherever they live. The children are our community’s future, and this action really stands out to give our children a fair chance at the start of life. As a mother of lead-affected children and an advocate for lead-freedom, it feels like we are finally seeing years of advocacy work coming to fruition.”

“Attorney General Letitia James sends a clear message with this action that the lead poisoning crisis in our midst is a great tragedy in twenty-first century America,” said Mrs. Oceanna Fair, South Branch leader of Families for Lead Freedom Now. “Her actions continue to peel back the onion to show how pervasive this problem has become in Syracuse. How many more lawsuits before we truly understand the dangers of unsafe housing for our entire community? My heart goes out to the families harmed by the negligence of this landlord, and meanwhile Attorney General James is a welcome ally in the fight for justice for all tenant families.”

“Thanks to the Attorney General, a second landlord will stand to account in 2023 for willful blindness to his tenants’ well-being,” said Paul Ciavarri, Community Organizer for Legal Services of Central New York. “We are saddened by the tragic consequences of this landlord’s negligence, but the message from Attorney General James is clear: landlords must provide safe shelter, not homes that deliver danger. Continued defiance by landlords of the Syracuse lead ordinance is an unacceptable business model, and in the meantime we support Attorney General James’ dedicated efforts to seek justice for tenants now.”

“Attorney General James is taking bold actions to ensure landlord accountability,” said Darrell Buckingham, Program Officer for Strategic Initiatives at Central New York Community Foundation. “For this we are appreciative and encouraged that our children will have the opportunity to live lead free.”

This lawsuit is the latest in Attorney General James’ efforts to hold landlords and property managers accountable for violating childhood lead poisoning prevention laws in New York. Last week, Attorney General James filed a lawsuit against Syracuse landlord Todd Hobbs for repeated and persistent violations of lead safety laws at more than a dozen rental properties. Attorney General James also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against Hobbs, seeking to stop him from selling off his properties while litigation is pending.

In June 2022, Attorney General James shut down Syracuse landlord John Kiggins and his company, Endzone Properties, Inc., for repeatedly violating lead paint laws and failing to address lead paint hazards, which resulted in the lead poisoning of 18 children living in Endzone properties in Syracuse. In March 2023, Attorney General James sued Buffalo landlord Farhad Raiszadeh for repeated and flagrant violations of lead safety laws at dozens of properties in East Buffalo. In November 2022, Attorney General James secured $5.1 million in restitution and penalties to fund ongoing childhood lead poisoning prevention programs administered by the City of Buffalo and Erie County, as a result of a September 2020 lawsuit against a group of individuals and companies in the Buffalo region for illegally allowing lead paint-related hazards to proliferate in their rental properties. In March 2022, the Attorney General led a multistate coalition in calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strengthen protections against lead poisoning, particularly for children living in low-income communities and communities of color. In September 2021, Attorney General James announced an agreement in her lawsuit against Chestnut Holdings of New York, Inc., a property management corporation, over its failures to protect children from lead paint hazards in New York City. Also in September 2021, Attorney General James reached a pre-suit agreement with A&E Real Estate Holdings, LLC to ensure that children living in its New York City apartments are protected from dangerous lead-based paint.

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