In the months following the catastrophic Twin Parks fire in the Bronx, Mayor Eric Adams and city leaders vowed to resurrect legislation that would require older residential apartment buildings to install sprinklers.

The mayor announced his intention to enact “sensible retrofit sprinkler legislation” in March, two months after a blaze started by an electric heater killed 17 residents of the Twin Parks building in the Bronx.

But when the City Council approved a raft of fire safety bills last week in response to the Bronx fire, an update on sprinklers was not among them.

“We haven’t heard a word about that,” said Dana Campbell, a former Twin Parks resident and supporter of sprinkler legislation. “Had we had a sprinkler system, the fire wouldn't have gotten out of control.”

Built in 1972, the affordable housing tower at Twin Parks North West is one of thousands of city buildings that lack an automatic sprinkler system, which are only required in residential housing built after 1999.

The bills passed last week tightened restrictions on self-closing doors, which did not appear to function properly in the January fire, causing many to die of smoke inhalation. But fire safety experts say sprinklers are among the most effective measures to prevent deadly blazes in the first place.

Previous efforts to mandate the systems in older buildings have typically faltered under pressure from real estate groups. That process appears to have played out again in recent months.

On Wednesday, as the mayor gathered alongside City Council members to celebrate the package of fire-related legislation, the elected officials made no mention of sprinklers. Shortly after signing the bills, which focused on regulating space heaters along with self-closing doors, several Council members said they were not aware of an active effort to retrofit sprinklers.

“I think it was looked into,” Council Speaker Adrienne Adams told Gothamist. “There was some issue around it that we still have to evaluate.”

Council member Joann Ariola, the chair of the city’s Committee on Fire and Emergency Management, said she had not seen any legislation related to sprinklers.

A Council source familiar with the discussions said the subject of sprinklers was never broached by the Adams administration, despite public statements from the mayor announcing his plan to collaborate with the Council on the “critical legislation.” But a spokesperson for the mayor suggested Gothamist reach out to members of the Council for the latest updates, adding that work on future fire safety legislation was ongoing.

Leaders within the city’s real estate industry suggested the sprinkler push had been abandoned.

“Our understanding is that it is not moving right now,” Michael Johnson, a spokesperson for the landlord group Community Housing Improvement program, wrote in an email to Gothamist.

Frank Ricci, the executive vice president of the Rent Stabilization Association, another landlord group, said he circulated a memo among some elected officials in recent months warning of the “significant and undue financial hardship on owners” posed by mandating sprinklers in older buildings.

The memo cites the cost of installing pumps and in some cases water tanks, as well as the disruption to tenants, who may be forced to relocate during the installation process.

“It’s kind of a risk reward situation,” said Peter Varsalona, the vice president at RAND engineering and a board member of the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums. “How many people perish in a fire every year? Considering the population of the city, it tends not to be a lot.”

The average number of fire deaths per year has fallen dramatically since the 1970s, when between 250 and 300 were killed annually in city fires. Since 2010, only about 800 people have died in fires in the five boroughs. Experts attribute that drop in part to the spread of sprinklers, which are estimated to lower the civilian fire death rate by 89%, according to a report from the National Fire Protection Association.

Public discussion on expanding the mandate tends to follow tragedy. In 1999, after two deadly high-rise fires, Mayor Rudy Giuliani agreed to mandate sprinklers in new construction with more than four units – but stopped short of including existing buildings amid developer opposition, reportedly led in part by Donald Trump.

More recently, after a 2017 Bronx fire killed 13 people, legislation was introduced that would have mandated sprinklers in older apartment buildings above 40 feet. After backlash from building owners, Council members said they would workshop the bill. They left office last year without introducing a new version.

Other local governments have considered the costs and benefits of sprinklers and reached different conclusions. Following a fire that killed 24 people in an apartment complex, the city of Los Angeles, CA required that all residential buildings built before 1943 be retrofitted with sprinklers. The state of Florida has required the same of all high-rise buildings since 1994, while San Antonio, Texas mandates that common areas of residential buildings include sprinklers.

New York City has also taken some steps to further embrace the fire suppression system. Under Local Law 26, passed in 2004, office buildings over 100 feet were given a 15-year window to install automatic sprinklers. But ensuring compliance with that law has been a challenge.

As of this month, there were 415 office buildings that still hadn’t installed sprinklers, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Buildings. Starting in January, the fine for non-compliance was raised to $5,000, with an additional $1,000 added each month.

Commercial landlords have accused the city of slow-rolling inspections or failing to communicate rules around the requirement. On Wednesday, hours before signing the fire safety bills, Adams was confronted by one of those landlords while speaking at a breakfast hosted by an Association for a Better New York. The mayor replied sympathetically.

“We need to get our house in order,” he said. “My city agencies must be more pro-business. They must get out of the way with the bureaucracy and red tape.”