Demand Letter to Comply with Proactive Rental Inspections (PRI)

Date: February 13, 2024

On February 13, 2024, we delivered a letter signed by a total of thirty-nine partners to Mayor Byron Brown and Department of Permits and Inspections Commissioner Cathy Amdur demanding that they implement the City's proactive rental inspection (PRI) law. This is the full text of that letter.


Partnership for the Public Good
617 Main Street
Suite 300
Buffalo, NY 14203
February 13, 2024
Mayor Byron W. Brown
Buffalo City Hall
65 Niagara Square
Room 201
Buffalo, New York 14202
Catherine Amdur
Commissioner of Permit & Inspection Services
Buffalo City Hall
65 Niagara Square
Room 301
Buffalo, New York 14202
Dear Mayor Brown and Commissioner Amdur,

We are thirty-nine community organizations representing residents in the City of Buffalo. We write to you to demand enforcement of the inspection requirements of the Proactive Rental Inspections (PRI) law enacted by the City of Buffalo Common Council in November 2020.

Community and civic leaders in Buffalo have had detailed knowledge of wide-spread lead poisoning for more than thirty years. The Buffalo News, on March 14, 1990, featured an article with the headline, “We’re Poisoning Our Children: old lead paint in homes impairs thousands.” Similar articles and warnings have been reiterated on a regular basis since that time. Yet, until the passage of the PRI, actions taken by the City of Buffalo to address childhood lead poisoning have been sporadic, reactive, disorganized, and wholly insufficient to address the conditions of housing that cause the lead poisoning of children and other harms.

One of the stated purposes of PRI is the “complete remediation of lead-based paint hazards.”  See Section 264-1 of the City Code.  Remediation of lead-based paint hazards is the only measure available to ensure a significant reduction of new cases of childhood lead poisoning. 

One of the core provisions of PRI is found in Section 264-8(A) of the City’s Code, which states:

“The Commissioner shall make an inspection of the rental dwelling unit that is the subject of an application for a license issued pursuant to this chapter to determine whether or not such rental dwelling unit is in substantial compliance with this chapter and all other applicable housing and building codes. The Commissioner shall provide the owner, or the owner’s representative at the inspection with a copy of the results of the inspection.”

This section of the law applies to each and every rental dwelling unit covered by PRI and enjoins upon the Commissioner the non-discretionary duty to inspect all such units to ensure the absence of deteriorated paint as well as other building code violations that threaten the occupants’ health and safety. The majority of children with lead poisoning in Erie County live in the City of Buffalo in single and double family homes rented from over 1,200 different landlords.[1] There are about 36,000 rental units covered by PRI,[2] all of which were built before 1979 and are presumptively contaminated with lead-based paint. The acts involved in inspecting these units are non-discretionary and require the Commissioner’s direct adherence to the mandate of the law to effectuate the law’s stated purpose.

In Commissioner Amdur’s March 2023 report, she stated that the department had conducted only 4,334 inspections between 2020-2022 and had issued only 156 Certificates of Rental Compliance (CRCs), the document issued to a rental property owner after a covered unit passes inspection.[3] This means that 88% of rental units covered by PRI haven’t been inspected, and only 0.4% have a CRC. Based on this information, it is clear that the Commissioner is failing to perform the non-discretionary duties enjoined upon her by law. The current level of compliance is wholly inadequate to effectuate the stated purposes of the law. 

There are about 21,500 children residing in the City of Buffalo under the age of six,[4] all of whom are susceptible to the ingestion of lead from flaking and peeling paint. Moreover, approximately 60% of residents in the City of Buffalo live in rental housing.[5] Every year, over two hundred children are lead poisoned in the City of Buffalo, the vast majority of whom live in units covered under PRI.[6] Data further indicates that children living in neighborhoods with predominantly residents of color are twelve times as likely to be poisoned than children living in predominantly white neighborhoods.[7] Unless effective primary prevention measures in rental housing are taken by the City of Buffalo, as contemplated by the Proactive Rental Inspections law, rates of childhood lead-poisoning will not substantially decrease from the present unacceptable levels, and the City will continue to fail to meet its obligation to ensure that rental housing is safe and habitable for occupants.

The enforcement of similar legislation enacted in Rochester has served to significantly reduce the incidence of childhood lead-poisoning in that city.[8] The proactive inspection strategies adopted by Rochester have proven to be the only effective way to substantially reduce the rate of childhood lead poisoning in communities with old housing stock, many low-income tenants, and a high percentage of renters.

The City’s failure to perform the non-discretionary duties it has assumed by virtue of the enactment of PRI represents a violation of the New York State Constitution Article I, Section 19, which was overwhelmingly passed by a ballot measure in 2021. The section provides for environmental rights and guarantees that “each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.” The constitutional rights of the most vulnerable residents of the City are being violated by the City of Buffalo given its continuing failure to enforce the law. 

Within thirty days of the date of this letter, we demand that the Commissioner provide us with documentation that the City is fully complying with the rental inspections required by the PRI law.

Please send this documentation to:

Andrea O Suilleabhain
Partnership for the Public Good
617 Main Street, Suite 300
Buffalo, NY 14203
Or by email to Andrea O Suilleabhain at
Allentown Association
Beyond Support Network
Buffalo Center for Health Equity
Buffalo Immigration Leadership Team
Buffalo Prenatal Perinatal Network
Center for Elder Law and Justice
Clean Air Coalition
Cooperation Buffalo
Cornell University ILR Buffalo Co-Lab
Erie County Restorative Justice Coalition
Fillmore Forward
Friends of Night People
Good Food Buffalo Coalition
Grassroots Gardens of Western New York
Heart of the City Neighborhoods
Housing Opportunities Made Equal
Jericho Road Community Health Center
LEAD 716
Liftoff Western New York
Massachusetts Avenue Project
Mother Earth Literacies
National Lawyers Guild (Buffalo Chapter)
Neighborhood Legal Services
Partnership for the Public Good
Peace of the City
Providence Farm Collective
People United for Sustainable Housing Buffalo
Talking Leaves… Books
Tenant, Owner, Landlord Alliance
The Tool Library
University at Buffalo Center for Urban Studies
Upward Design for Life, Corp.
Urban Roots Cooperative Gardens
VOICE Buffalo
Western New York Environmental Alliance
Western New York Law Center
Western New York Lead Poisoning Prevention Resource Center—Buffalo Office
Western New York Peace Center
Western New York Youth Climate Council
CC: Corporation Counsel
CC: Buffalo Common Council
CC: Commission on Citizens’ Rights and Community Relations in the City of Buffalo

[1] Kent Gardner, Renewing Our Pledge to Ending Lead Poisoning of Buffalo’s Most Vulnerable Citizens, (policy report, Rochester NY: CGR, 2017), s_most_vulnerable_citizens.pdf, p. V.
[2] This figure is based on calculations derived from Open Data Buffalo, “Current Assessment Role (2023-2024),” City of Buffalo Department of Assessment and Taxation, accessed August 2023, Single-unit and double-unit residential properties for which the owner’s mailing address is different from the physical building address were identified as likely rental properties covered by the law.
[3] City of Buffalo New York, Department of Permits and Inspections Services, March 3, 2023, Commissioner's Report to the Common Council of the City of Buffalo as per City Code §264-
[4] U.S. Census Bureau, 2022 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Series (PUMA) (Buffalo City, New York), accessed December 6, 2023.
[5] U.S. Census Bureau, “Selected Housing Characteristics,” DP04, 2018-2022 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates (Buffalo City, New York), accessed January 9, 2023,
[6] Health Data New York, “Childhood Blood Lead Testing and Elevated Incidence by Zip Code: Beginning 2000,” New York State Department of Health, accessed January 11, 2023,; KGardner, Renewing Our Pledge, p. V. 
[7] University at Buffalo Regional Institute, State University of New York at Buffalo, School of Architecture and Planning, and Make Communities, The Racial Equity Dividend: Buffalo’s Great Opportunity, (2016),, p. 43.
[8] Katrina Smith Korfmacher, Bridging Silos: Collaborating for Environmental Health and Justice in Urban Communities (the MIT Press, 2019), Chapter 4 The Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning: Promoting Primary Prevention in Rochester, New York; “Lead Poisoning Prevention Program: Local Trends in Childhood Lead Poisoning,” Onondaga County, NY, accessed January 4, 2024,