City council members on Wednesday pushed for a package of new fire safety laws – including one that quadruples fines against negligent landlords – to prevent another disaster like the Bronx skyscraper fire that killed 17 people in January.
Introduced at an Oswald Feliz (D-Bronx) City Council hearing, the legislation would force building owners to repair faulty self-closing doors — which helped the Twin Parks Northwest inferno spread quickly — in 10 days or less instead of 21 days.
It also increases fines against landlords who falsely claim to have fixed the doors from about $250 to a maximum of $1,000.
“The Twin Parks fire was preventable. Had actually closed all the self-closing doors [and] had worked, this fire would not have become the tragedy we saw,” Feliz said at the hearing to discuss the proposed legislation. “We have one overarching goal – to figure out what can be done to prevent home fires from occurring.”
According to the bill, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development must re-inspect the doors even after complaints from residents.
But council member Eric Dinowitz (D-Bronx) criticized the department for only inspecting the fire safety function after a complaint — stressing that most tenants don’t know their doors are supposed to close themselves, and therefore the problem doesn’t face that mention city.
“I want to talk about this word that I keep hearing [from the DHPD] “proactive,” and every time you describe it, it sounds like it’s a reaction to something,” he said.
But the department’s deputy commissioner, AnnMarie Santiago, said inspectors had no reason to visit buildings unless there was a reported problem. The department issued 22,000 self-closing door violations last year, she said.
“Generally, we focus our resources on where we have a known problem,” she said.
“We really would have no reason to be in this building other than that we’re trying to address an existing condition that’s affecting the lives of the tenants who live there,” she said.
Dinowitz fired back, “I respectfully disagree.”
He urged the city to launch an awareness campaign to educate renters about the potentially life-saving door feature so they know a broken door is worth a call to 311.
Before the historic fire broke out in January, the Twin Parks Northwest skyscraper had been on trial six times between 2013 and 2019 for failing to keep all of the building’s self-closing doors operational, according to records. The landlord sometimes let the problem lie dormant for three years.
FDNY officials said the fire started from a space heater in a third-floor apartment, and multiple non-functioning self-closing doors allowed smoke to quickly fill the building.
At the hearing, Feliz suggested “hiring more inspectors” and cracking down on landlords – to which Santiago replied, “I think we’re trying to do both.”
Meanwhile, a second fire safety law tabled on Wednesday would ban the sale of electric space heaters without automatic shut-off and thermostat functions.
A third law requires landlords to keep buildings warmer by raising temperature requirements from 68 to 70 degrees during the day and from 62 to 68 degrees at night between October and May.
The City Council will vote on the proposals at a later date.
Additional reporting by Maggie Hicks
https://nypost.com/2022/04/06/lawmakers-push-for-bill-targeting-landlords-after-bronx-fire/ Lawmakers are pushing for a law against landlords after the Bronx fire