City Hall, NY – Today, the Council voted ona package of legislation to strengthen fire safety measures in residences throughout New York City. The bills respond to issues that led to the tragic residential building fire at the 19-story Twin Parks Northwest apartment building in the Fordham section of the Bronx on January 9 that claimed the lives of 17 New Yorkers, including eight children. Investigators ascertained that the fire was caused by a defective space heater that caught fire in the bedroom of a third-floor apartment. Although the flames were contained to the hallway outside the third-floor unit, smoke quickly permeated the building, escaping the unit door, then traveling up a stairwell and into the fifteenth floor, where the stairwell door was also left open. All 17 deaths were caused by smoke inhalation.
“The Twin Parks fire in the Bronx was one of the worst tragedies in the history of New York City,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “While we continue to mourn the lives of the 17 New Yorkers we lost that day, the Council is taking meaningful and concrete actions to ensure tragedies like this will never happen again. This package of legislation bolsters current safety measures to protect residents. I am thankful to Twin Parks Citywide Taskforce on Fire Prevention Chair Feliz and Council Members Hanif, Sanchez, and Carr for their leadership on these critical bills that will save lives.”
Introduction 104-A, sponsored by Council Member Oswald Feliz, Chair of the Twin Parks Citywide Taskforce on Fire Prevention, would establish a definition for the term “self-closing” door so it is clear that applicable doors must return to the closed position and latch shut when opened and released.
Introduction 105-A, also sponsored by Chair Feliz, would make some modifications to the enforcement of Local Law 111, which required that doors providing access to interior corridors or stairs be self-closing or equipped with devices to ensure closing after having been opened, with a deadline of July 31, 2021 for property owners to bring doors into compliance. The Local Law also placed responsibility on owners of multiple dwellings to keep and maintain self-closing doors in good repair, and made failure to do so a class C or “immediately hazardous” violation.
First, Introduction 105-A amends the correction period from 21 days to 14 days and requires the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to conduct a follow-up inspection within 20 business days following the 14-day correction period. Second, the bill increases the civil penalty for self-closing door violations to $250-500, and an additional $250 per day for each day the violating condition remains after the deadline to correct. Third, Introduction 105-A increases the penalty for false certification of correction of a hazardous violation to $250-500, and an immediately hazardous violation to $500-1000. Lastly, the bill clarifies that self-closing doors must return to the closed position and self-latch when opened and released.
“Properly-functioning self-closing doors could have prevented the unspeakable Twin Parks tragedy. Had the self-closing doors worked, smoke wouldn’t have filled the 19-story tower, and families would’ve been able to safely escape the fire,” said Council Member Oswald Feliz.
“We cannot allow another similar tragedy to ever happen again. These fire safety bills will ensure that self-closing door laws are scrupulously followed and enforced. The mandatory re-inspections and increased civil penalties will help ensure that violations are taken seriously and promptly corrected; and that landlords who fail to do so are held accountable. Self-closing doors are crucial fire-fighting and life-saving equipment. These bills will help ensure that the doors are closing, and protecting our families.”
Introduction 106-A, sponsored by Council Member Shahana Hanif, would prohibit the sale of portable electric space heaters without certain safety features that are designed to mitigate the fire risk posed by operation of such devices. Specifically, any such device would have to be equipped with a thermostat, an automatic function that disables the device upon tip-over or overheating and be certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. Anyone who violates the ban would face civil penalties that escalate upon subsequent violations.
“Four months ago, the tragic Twin Peaks fire took the lives of 17 New Yorkers, all of whom were West African Muslim immigrants. Today, our Council is taking real steps to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif. “I’m proud to pass my first Local Law, Intro 243, which ensures space heaters sold in our City are outfitted with the necessary safety equipment to avoid another tragic fire. Together, alongside Council Members Sanchez, Feliz, and Carr’s legislation, this Council is addressing the root causes of this tragic fire and ensuring tenants can remain safe and secure in their homes.”
Introduction 131-A, sponsored by Council Member Pierina Sanchez, would amend current requirements relating to the Fire Department’s efforts to conduct fire safety education and outreach for residential buildings, by requiring that such activities include dissemination of relevant information pertaining to the safe operation of electric space heaters in residential settings. Additionally, the bill requires that any written materials disseminated by FDNY pertaining to fire safety education must be made available in the top ten languages most commonly spoken within the City.
“This City Council is committed to improving fire safety for all New Yorkers. Int 131-A will expand educational outreach regarding space heaters, and add increased language access for immigrant communities,” said Council Member Pierina Sanchez. “Educational outreach by the FDNY has reached thousands of New Yorkers, but expanding this to include language access to the top 10 languages will ensure our immigrant communities have access to the same information in New York. The first package of legislation addressing the Twin Parks fire is just a start, to be clear. We do not now rest. We continue to improve building and fire safety: holding landlords accountable, modernizing our fire and building codes and ensuring adequate code enforcement is working for all New Yorkers.”
Introduction 155-A, sponsored by Council Member David Carr, would waive permit filing fees for owners of 1-3 family homes who are looking to repair the damage caused by a fire, and to correct any construction defects discovered following the fire. The waiver would apply to other dwellings in the same homeowner’s or cooperative association with the same construction defect.
In 2018, the Council passed Local Law 111 following another deadly fire. It required that doors providing access to interior corridors or stairs be self-closing or equipped with devices to ensure closing after having been opened and also placed responsibility on owners of multiple dwellings to keep and maintain self-closing doors in good repair, and made failure to do so a class C or “immediately hazardous” violation, with a 21-day period to fix the door after issuance of violation.
The Council also voted on the following:
Resolution 121, sponsored by Council Member Nantasha Williams, would call on the New York State Legislature to pass the Clean Slate Act (S.1553-C/A.6399-B). The Clean Slate Act would automatically seal conviction records after someone has completed their sentence, is off of parole or probation, has not incurred any new charges or convictions in New York State during a set number of years and the conviction to be sealed is not a sex offense.
“For more than 2.3 million New Yorkers, access to employment, housing, education, and other economic opportunities can be blocked because of an old record, no matter how many years have passed,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “Removing this barrier will not only benefit millions of New Yorkers and their families, but it will also boost our state’s economy, strengthen small businesses, and contribute to the safety, stability, and well-being of our neighborhoods. The Council is proud to urge passage of the Clean Slate Act in our state legislature by passing Resolution 121, and I thank Council Member Williams for her leadership in sponsoring the resolution. This is a model for how stakeholders can work together to advance opportunities for all New Yorkers, and we look forward to seeing the bill passed.”
“Clean Slate will be transformative for so many New Yorkers who have been disproportionately impacted by criminalization — especially those who face barriers to employment due to prior convictions or arrests that do not result in a criminal charge or conviction but still appear on background checks or public records searches,” said Council Member Nantasha Williams. “The Clean Slate Act will help restore balance by providing opportunities for people with criminal records who have served their time and are ready to be a productive members of society. I would like to thank the advocates, bill sponsor senator Zellnor Myrie, Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, and Speaker Adams for her leadership.”
The Council also voted on the following home rule messages related to pension.
- S6981-B/A7971-A – Relates to additional member retirement program contributions for some members under age 57 who, due to their enrollment dates, cannot meet the 25-year service requirement for using specific benefits for which they make contributions. This bill would address that disparity and exempt members who are unable to receive the benefits from the requirement to make additional contributions.
- S6985-B/A7873-A – Relates to automotive members of the NYC employee retirement system This would provide automotive members of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS) who begin their careers later in life with the ability to receive a vested retirement benefit.
- S6980-B/10029 – Relates to allowing police/fire members of the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) pension fund to get credit for Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) service. This will give Tier III members of the New York City Fire Department Pension Fund who have prior creditable service as an EMT with the FDNY the ability to receive Fire Department Pension service credit for their service. It would also allow members to apply up to three prior years of service as a NYCERS EMT to their FIRE pension retirement, so long as the service years with NYCERS directly precedes their current membership in the FIRE pension.
- S.6988B/A7962 – Create a 25 year plan for fire protection inspectors. It would also provide uniformed fire service personnel the opportunity to retire with a full pension after 25 years of service. It would grant them parity with other uniformed service personnel who perform essential tasks including, police officers, firefighters, EMTs and other uniformed service employees.
The Council also voted on the following:
Broadway Triangle-Bartlett Crossing Development – New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) requests approval for an Urban Development Action Area designation, Urban Development Action Area project, and disposition of city-owned property, which will facilitate the construction of a nine-story, 100% affordable, residential building with 29 units, in Council Member Lincoln Restler’s district.
2300 Cropsey Avenue Rezoning – Cropsey Partners LLC, requests a zoning map amendment, to rezone the southwest frontage of Cropsey Avenue, between 23rd Avenue and Bay 34th Street, to establish a C2-4 overlay district. This action would allow for commercial uses within a new, 23-story mixed-use building currently under construction, in Council Member Justin Brannan’s district.
35-01 Vernon Boulevard Rezoning – Agayev Holding LLC seeks a proposed zoning map amendment to rezone an existing R5 district to a Special Mixed Use R7A/M1-4 district, and a related zoning text amendment to designate a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Area. These actions would facilitate the development of a new nine-story, mixed-use building, with approximately 107 dwelling units, of which 26 would be affordable, in Council Member Julie Won’s district.
The Council also voted on the following:
Expense Budget Modification – This modification represents proposed movements of City funds within and among City agencies in Fiscal 2022 to implement changes in the City’s expense budget, but leaves the overall level of City funds unchanged.
Revenue Budget Modification –This modification seeks to appropriate new City revenues in fiscal year 2022 in the amount of $1.36 billion. The $1.36 billion of new revenues combined with an adjustment to the General Reserve will be used to prepay $1.54 billion of fiscal year 2023 expenses in fiscal year 2022.
Transparency Resolution #13 of Fiscal Year 2022 — Approving the new designation and changes in the designation of certain organizations receiving funding in the Expense Budget.
788 Fox Street – New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development seeks an exemption from real property taxes for property located at Block 2720, Lot 69, Bronx, Community District No. 2, Council District No. 8. The project is a 5-story building with 5 commercial spaces which closed in 2017 with a construction loan used to do a moderate rehabilitation of the building. The current Article XI is expiring in 2034, and the sponsor is seeking a new Article XI to match the loan term and a new HPD regulatory agreement. HPD would like to provide a partial exemption at four percent Gross Rent Tax for 30 years to allow the project to leverage debt to pay for expenses incurred and successfully convert the project. There are 52 units and all are currently rent stabilized with AMIs ranging from 50 percent to 80 percent.
The Council also voted on the following appointments:
- David Do – Commissioner of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission
- Robert Hogan – Member of the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board