BUFFALO, NY - In the wake of a carbon monoxide leak, which sickened seven students at the University at Buffalo on February 17, a NYS State Assemblyman is seeking to make sure those who live in public housing projects are protected.
"After the incident at UB, I have received some complaints that the Marine Drive Apartment and other facilities run by the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA) are not in compliance with state laws," said Michael Kearns (D-142nd District).
Under Amanda's Law, named after Amanda Hansen of West Seneca who died of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, requirements for CO detectors in the state were strengthened.
The voluminous law is, Kearns admits, difficult to wade through, and interpretations of it can be ambiguous. But he is convinced it calls for CO detectors in each of the units at Marine Drive, a collection of 1950's era 12-story buildings on Buffalo's waterfront.
"I'm almost 99.9% positive," Kearns told WGRZ-TV. "It's a multiple dwelling over two stories tall...I called the City of Buffalo's fire prevention bureau and I spoke with their representative who said, yes , all public housing should be in compliance with the law."
Kearns, a member of the Assembly Housing Committee, said he would like to meet with the BMHA to address his concerns.
"I've reached out to BMHA Executive Director Dawn Sanders, and I drafted a letter requesting that an audit be done of all BMHA buildings to make sure they're in compliance with the uniform code," said Kearns, while noting that 12,000 residents of New York State's second largest city live in public housing.
Sanders did not return a phone call to her office placed by Two On Your Side seeking comment.
Joe Mascia, a tenant-elected Commissioner of the BMHA, confirmed that none of the units in Marine Drive are equipped with CO detectors unless the tenants have installed them on their own.
"We (Commissioners) set policy and we approve contracts but the day to day operation is done by the director and staff," Mascia told Channel 2 News. "I feel very confident that once the Executive Director finds out what the issue is she will take care of it," he said.
Mascia, who also lives at Marine Drive, applauded Kearns' effort.
Marie Dawson, whose windows are near the chimney, which vents her building's boiler, says sometimes in the summer, when traffic is heavy near Marine Drive, exhaust fumes from cars travel into the apartments.
"I remember when two babies ended up in the hospital. Their parents didn't know what the heck was going on...but when their babies got sick, they took them to the hospital and found out later it was from breathing carbon monoxide," said Dawson, who believes the BMHA should supply tenants with CO detectors.
"It's not that much money. They should stop spending on all their overtime and salaries and spend it on the tenants," she said.
"Every one of these apartments should have one of these detectors...I'm going to make sure that this happens," Kearns said.
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 on Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Bill Boyer. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2