New York state lawmakers appear poised to implement minimum safety requirements for electric space heaters in response to the Bronx fire that killed 17 people earlier this year.
The state Senate unanimously passed a bill Monday that would require electric, portable heaters to have a thermostat and an automatic shutoff feature in order to be sold in New York. Such space heaters would also have to be certified by a testing body recognized by OSHA, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), according to the bill.
The Assembly passed the bill Tuesday, leaving it up to Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign or veto it.
The bill was one of a handful of fire-safety measures the Senate approved Monday, including one that would boost the penalties for violating New York City’s building code and housing standards for the first time since 1987. Among other increases, each “immediately hazardous” violation in a building with at least 10 units would be subject to a fine of up to $1,000 a day until it’s corrected — up from the current $125.
Some of the Senate-approved bills were first introduced in the days following the deadly Jan. 9 blaze at the Twin Parks North West high-rise apartment building, which fire officials determined to be caused by a faulty electric space heater and exacerbated by broken self-closing doors that allowed smoke to spread.
“These measures will improve the safety of all New York housing and protect families,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat representing Yonkers.
Assemblymember Kenny Burgos, the Bronx Democrat sponsoring the space heater legislation, said the bill will improve safety. Manhattan state Sen. Cordell Cleare, a Democrat, sponsored the bill in the Senate.
Burgos said the bill was recently amended to make clear it applies only to electric space heaters after some had raised concern it could essentially outlaw propane heaters often used for camping – which can’t be fitted with an automatic shutoff because there is no electric source.
“I think we're going to be good,” Burgos said of the bill’s chances before the Assembly passed it. “I’ve spoken even with the members on the other side of the aisle. I think they agree with the bill. We made some amendments to make sure there weren't any unintended consequences of the bill. So I think it should be a smooth-sailing process.”
The Senate’s action Monday came after New York City Mayor Eric Adams signed a March executive order bolstering enforcement of residential buildings with repeated fire-safety violations, in part by requiring more frequent inspections of delinquent properties.
The article has been updated to reflect the bills were passed in the Assembly.