Megan Burney

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Democratic State Senate Candidate Andy Marte and current Assembly District Leader Tommy Torres have been accused of advertising fraudulent antibody testing for Covid-19 at the Williamsburg NYCHA Houses.  

The event was canceled after a Daily News report Monday night. Tenant Association President at the Williamsburg NYCHA development, LaVonne McLamb, says their attempt posed a serious threat to her community.

“They are taking advantage of my elderly residents and asking them to come out and get tested,” she said.  “These people are the most at risk with this and if they go out and wait on a line they’re exposing themselves.”

She says that the duo arranged and advertised for the testing on NYCHA grounds without authorization. 

“They cannot do testing here,” McLamb said.  “It has to be done at any one of the city testing facilities where you go and make an appointment.  They can’t just bring people here, not in the 11206 where we have already been hit hard!” 

And McLamb’s doubts were heightened upon deeper research into the group providing the rapid-result tests, an urgent care facility called ASISA.  Back in March, at the start of the pandemic, ASISA came under scrutiny for faulty testing practices that may have contributed to the spread of the virus in Hisidic neighborhoods.

State Senator Julia Salazar, who Marte is challenging in next week’s primary, said that a first-glance at the flyer advertising the free testing was enough to raise alarm.

Flyer designed by State Senator Candidate Andy Marte to advertise free testing at Williamsburg Houses.

“It looked really suspicious because it said the testing was being conducted by an urgent care outside of our district that we were not familiar with and there was no information given to verify if the facility was legitimate,” Salazar told Bushwick Daily.  “It also advertised rapid-result finger-prick testing, which is not an approved method of testing.  The antibody test is a blood test, yes, but a finger prick is not a sufficient amount of blood.”

A Bushwick Daily fact check found that the CDC website includes rapid-result tests by way of finger prick as one of the multiple forms a Covid-19 antibody test can take, however there does not seem to be such a test on the FDA’s list of authorized tests.  

Salazar says that the “harm of conducting an illegitimate test is that it increases the likelihood of a false negative which may stop people from seeking proper care or continuing to take necessary precautions.”  

Sen. Salazar and McLamb both also expressed skepticism about the requested pre-registration process.  

“The flyer asks that you pre-register by sending your personal information to a Gmail account,” Salazar explained.  “And I’m skeptical about how they’re going to use that information.”

But McLamb had one idea:

“They are trying to scam the elderly and their insurance,” she said of the company providing the tests, ASISA.  “They’re asking all the elderly people and low-income people to come because they’re on Medicare.”

“If it’s free, why do you want people’s insurance cards?  And why do you want their personal information sent to a Gmail account?”  She asked, “where is the professionalism at?”

“They’re supposed to be helping the community, and instead they’re putting these people in danger,” McLamb said in anger.  “It’s all for personal gain, it’s not for the interest of my residents.  All this is for a vote, and they’re endangering people’s lives.”

Sen. Salazar saw things similarly.

“I think there’s an awareness that NYCHA has been disproportionately hit by the virus and they are taking advantage of people’s fears and the need for testing for personal gain.”  She says that Marte and Torres tried to inappropriately take credit for a service to the community that is already being provided by the city.  

And if you are in need of accurate information regarding Coronavirus please visit the New York Governemnt site.

“If they were trying to do good for the community earnestly, there are so many ways for anyone to help out without trying to campaign,” she added.

And McLamb believes that two targeted the Williamsburg Houses because they underestimated her as the Tenant Association President.

“They [Torres and Marte] don’t have respect for me because of my age,” she said.  “They targeted me because I’m young and they think they’re smarter than me.” 

McLamb says she researched ASISA and coronavirus antibody testing discovering that ASISA is not approved by the NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene to conduct COVID-19 testing.  McLamb posted a counter flyer warning her residents of the danger she thought Marte, Torres and ASISA posed.

Tenant Association President LaVonne McLamb distributed this NYCHA flyer warning her residents of unauthorized testing.

And in the end, McLamb was abided by. 

“They cancelled the event,” McLamb said.  “They didn’t tell anyone because people still showed up, but I was out there with the cops making sure they didn’t do anything.”

Though only few showed up thanks to her counter efforts, the ordeal has left McLamb personally offended.

“They should be put on a wall of shame,” she said of Torres and Marte.

Bushwick Daily requested a comment from both Torre and Marte, but neither responded.

Cover photo borrowed from Candidate’s facebook page.

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