Memorandum in Opposition to Intro No. 606 Emergency Evacuation Assistance for Individuals with Limited Mobility

Intro No: 606

Subject: A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation emergency evacuation assistance for individuals with limited mobility

Sponsors: Richards

Date: February 26, 2018

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), representing over 17,000 owners, developers, managers and brokers of real property in New York City, appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on the proposed legislation. While REBNY supports the overall goals of the bill to assist individuals with limited mobility, there are several reasons why this bill is impractical.

The legislation requires the installation of equipment, such as stair descent devices and applies retroactively to all existing residential buildings. This is problematic due to lack of extraneous space, particularly for older structures. An amendment to the bill should exempt such buildings and those where installation of such devices may hinder efforts to evacuate safely. [1]

It would be very difficult to implement the bill effectively and safely—undercutting the very goals of the bill. Many of the devices envisioned by the bill require manual assistance from staff during an evacuation event. Building staff would need to be trained to assist a wide range of individuals with limited mobility and/or other disabilities, such as partial or full paralysis, or blindness. Such providers could be subject to additional liability in the event of any shortcomings arising from an evacuation. An amendment to the bill should include “good Samaritan” provisions to shield care providers from such liability. 

A far more effective approach would be for the City to collect a list of individuals requiring assistance and allow the NYC Fire Department (FDNY) or the NYC Police Department (NYPD)—personnel who are otherwise properly trained to assist with this—access through an online registry. This would be notably beneficial in buildings that are not staffed day and night, which is most common in the luxury housing market.  

Individuals faced with disability and limited liabilities are already protected through federal, state and local laws, such as Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Fair Housing Act as well as NYS and NYC human rights laws, which ensure buildings provide certain accommodations, prohibit housing discrimination and provide accessibility assurance. [2] Any new requirements to this effect should ensure these continued protections and not hinder the safety of this population.

For the abovementioned reasons, REBNY OPPOSES INTRO No. 606.

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[1] Barnes, Jonathan. “Ain’t No Crystal Stair: Care and Maintenance of Stairwells.” The Cooperator. May 2013. Accessed 2.23.18. <https://cooperator.com/article/aint-no-crystal-stair/full#cut>

[2] Laws, NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. Accessed 2.23.18 <http://www1.nyc.gov/site/mopd/laws/laws.page>