Mayor Eric Adams said the city will crack down on buildings with a high number of fire safety violations, two months after a blaze killed 17 tenants of a Bronx high-rise with a history of complaints.
As part of a new executive order signed on Sunday, the city will increase information sharing between the FDNY and the city’s housing inspectors “to identify safety violations earlier and increase fire safety compliance.”
The order will also require the FDNY to conduct more frequent inspections of buildings found in violation of the city’s fire code. Inspectors with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development will ensure that fire safety notices are displayed on every front door – and will alert the FDNY if they are not.
The enforcement push will be accompanied by a broad campaign to educate New Yorkers on fire safety overseen by the two agencies, according to a press release.
The measures are meant to “avoid an unspeakable tragedy like the one we saw two months ago,” Adams said, referring to the Jan. 9 blaze in which 17 people, including eight children, died of smoke inhalation in the Twin Parks North West high-rise.
After a tenant’s space heater caught fire, the apartment door didn’t close automatically, allowing smoke from the blaze to spread rapidly through the high-rise. Fire officials said that at least one other door connecting to the stairwell did not close.
Records showed that the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development had repeatedly cited the building for its malfunctioning doors, raising questions about the city’s oversight capabilities.
The building’s owners – LIHC Investment Group, Belveron Partners and Camber Property Group – are currently facing a class action lawsuit from the families of the victims.
Adams said he is also working with the City Council to pass legislation increasing the fines on landlords who falsely report curing a self-closing door violation, as well as “sensible retrofit sprinkler legislation.”
While landlords are required to maintain self-closing doors, there is currently no city law requiring them to perform inspections on the doors to ensure they work, Jim Bullock, a retired deputy chief for the FDNY who now runs the NY Fire Safety Institute.
Fire prevention experts have long said that sprinkler systems are among the most effective ways to stop the spread of flames. But efforts to mandate their installation in older buildings have faltered in the past, amid opposition from the real estate industry.
Councilmember Oswald Feliz, who represents the district, and has introduced legislation that would mandate sprinklers, said the time has come for more robust action on fire safety.
“The horrific Twin Parks fire highlighted the need for stronger laws and enforcement of laws related to fire safety,” Feliz said in a statement. “We must do everything within our power to ensure another tragedy, like the one we saw at Twin Parks, never happens again — anywhere in New York City.”