Memorandum in Opposition to Intro No. 604 Placement of Photoelectric Smoke Alarms in Residential Buildings

Intro No: 604

Subject: A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to placement of photoelectric smoke alarms in residential buildings

Sponsors: Cornegy, Deutsch

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), representing more than 17,000 owners, developers, managers and brokers of real property in New York City, supports the overall goals of this bill to ensure residents are afforded the greatest protection from fires, but we have several concerns with this bill, which are outlined below in greater detail.

The legislation requires that owners of all new and existing buildings replace smoke detectors with photoelectric devices or equip existing detection devices with silencing technology if installed within 10 and 20 feet from a cooking appliance.

Both the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) and the NYC Fire Department (FDNY) have expressed concerns about this legislation. REBNY agrees with FDNY and DOB that this matter requires further analysis to be considered and weighed by DOB’s Code Revision Committee, which is currently revising the NYC Building Code. The Code Revision Committee has raised issue with the bill’s proposed adoption of an outdated NFPA 72 standard as well as its promotion of technology which may not be readily available in the marketplace. The Council should defer to the Committee’s recommendations and consider basing requirements on the forthcoming NFPA standards before proceeding with another draft of this bill.

Furthermore, the bill is scheduled to take effect immediately on January 1, 2019, setting an unreasonable compliance deadline for many building owners. The bill’s requirement that all residential building owners immediately replace-or-otherwise adapt smoke detection devices is impractical and ignores the fact that currently installed detectors are still useful. The Council should amend the bill to allow owners to replace units at the end of their useful life in order to reduce burdens upon residents and owners where devices were recently replaced. Allowing owners to replace existing smoke detectors as needed would also ensure owners can comply with these requirements where more extensive work or hard-wiring needs to be completed.

Additionally, it is unclear whether the silencing technology endorsed by the bill is readily available for owners to adapt currently installed smoke alarms and detectors, putting additional pressure on alternative measures to replace these devices. Coupled with widespread concern over whether there are sufficiently available photoelectric devices and manufacturers to support owners in complying with the replacement option, REBNY urges the Council to scale back the implementation deadline.

For the abovementioned reasons, REBNY OPPOSES INTRO No. 604.