Also Votes to Strengthen Standpipe and Sprinkler Operations as part of Comprehensive Construction, Demolition and Abatement Overhaul

City Hall, August 20, 2009 – At today’s Stated Council meeting, the City Council will vote on vital public health legislation requiring pharmacies with more than four stores in the five boroughs to provide free oral and written translation services to thousands of New Yorkers in need of prescription translation assistance.

In addition to the Pharmacy Language Access Bill, the City Council will vote on several important pieces of legislation designed to improve standpipe and sprinkler safety on construction sites. The Council will also vote to improve permitting standards for demolitions by requiring a registered design professional to submit a detailed plan for demolition. These four bills are part of a comprehensive legislative package announced by Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Deputy Mayor for Operations Edward Skyler in May as a response to the tragic Deutsche Bank fire that killed two New York City Firefighters.


Helping thousands of limited or non-English speaking New Yorkers better understand often complex prescription directives, the City Council will vote to require chain pharmacies with four or more stores to provide free interpretation and translation services to New Yorkers with limited English proficiency.

“When picking up prescriptions from their local pharmacists, New Yorkers are often times inundated with complicated instructions and multiple warning labels,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “Just imagine how difficult and potentially dangerous this situation can be for someone whose native language is not English. Providing either in-person or over-the-phone translation services to those with questions about their medication could be the difference between life and death.”

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said, “Across the city, New Yorkers with limited English proficiency are in danger of misreading prescription labels and incorrectly taking medications. My bill ensures that all New Yorkers have access to the prescription translation services they need to make safe medical choices. I would like to thank the advocates for their work on this issue and Speaker Quinn for her support. I am confident that the City Council will vote to make this common sense bill a reality for New Yorkers.”

“This bill will now help thousands and thousands of our city’s non native English speakers to understand what kind of medication they’re taking, how much and for how long in addition to being able to ask questions in their language about their prescription,” said Joel Rivera, Chair of the Health Committee. “The health and safety of New Yorkers is a right that all should be able to communicate in their native language. I want to thank my colleagues, the Speaker and the Public Advocate for passing this very important piece of legislation.”

Specifically, these services will include oral interpretation of counseling about the use of prescription medications, prescription medication labels, warning labels and other written material. These translation services may be provided either in person or over the phone by pharmacy staff or a third-party contractor.

This legislation would also require chain pharmacies to provide free written translation of prescription medication labels, warning labels and other written material vital to a consumer’s use of prescription medication and also post a sign about the right to free language assistance services. Written translation services would be available in the seven languages most common among limited English proficient New Yorkers. Currently, these are Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Russian, Korean, Italian, French Creole, and Polish.


Following the tragic fire at the former Deutsche Bank building in Lower Manhattan that took the lives of New York City Firefighters Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia, the City Council will vote on a second set of safety bills to improve construction operations and ensure that necessary fire protection systems such as standpipes and sprinklers will always be available to fire fighting personnel.

The Council will also vote on a bill to improve permitting standards for demolition projects by requiring a registered design professional to submit a detailed plan for the demolition when the project includes the use of mechanical equipment.

Specifically, today’s package of sprinkler and standpipe legislation will:

· Require site safety managers to conduct daily checks of standpipes and weekly tracing of the system at construction and demolition sites to ensure a breach has not occurred and maintain a record of these inspections;

· Establish uniform color coding of standpipe and sprinkler systems including the handles of valves serving such systems for ease of identification in case of emergency and so they are not accidently damaged and rendered inoperable;

· Require a master plumbing or master fire-suppression license and a permit to cut and cap standpipes or sprinklers during demolition projects and establish a procedure for granting a variance to remove a damaged or inoperable sprinkler systems to ensure agency personnel are aware of changes to the fire-suppression system and that the work is done correctly.

“Taken together, these measures we are passing today and others that we have recently passed represent a significant overhaul of the City’s demolition procedures,” said Speaker Quinn. “As soon as these bills are implemented, they will take us another major step forward in making sure that conditions in this industry never lead to another event like the one that took the lives of Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia.”

“Ensuring that there are working standpipes and sprinklers will keep emergencies from becoming tragedies,” said Council Member Garodnick. “Two years after the City lost Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino in the Deutsche Bank building fire, we need to prevent other firefighters from encountering the same unnecessary dangers that those men faced.”

“The removal or damage of a standpipe without notice or permission by the City has cost lives, and this legislation will go a long way in making sure that doesn’t happen again,” said Council Member Vincent Ignizio. “Working together with the Speaker, my colleagues in the Council and the Administration, we will create a safer environment for the FDNY.”

“Regrettably the tragedy of Deutsche Bank taught us a valuable lesson and it cost us the lives of firefighters Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino. Never again will we send our firefighters in to harm’s way without ensuring they are protected. Today we are setting a new standard of safety that will prevent incidents such as this from occurring again hopefully,” said Councilman James Sanders Jr.