The Real Estate Board of New York to The Committees on Fire and Emergency Management, Housing and Buildings, and the Special Committee on Twin Parks Citywide Taskforce on Fire Prevention of the New York City Council

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The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is the City’s leading real estate trade association representing commercial, residential, and institutional property owners, builders, managers, investors, brokers, salespeople, and other organizations and individuals active in New York City real estate. REBNY thanks the City Council for the opportunity to provide testimony regarding the important issues surrounding the tragic Twin Parks fire.

The Twin Parks fire, which occurred on January 9th at 333 East 181st Street in the Bronx, was the deadliest fire in decades with seventeen lives lost, forty-four injured, along with the displacement of dozens of families from their homes and local community. It has rightfully initiated the important conversation on how to strengthen and build upon existing fire safety regulations to ensure that New York City does not experience such a tragedy again. REBNY and our members work daily with FDNY, HPD and DOB to continue to strengthen all aspects of fire prevention. Residential buildings in New York City are subject to a variety of operational and physical fire safety regulations with conscious redundancies in place to ensure the health and safety of the public.

With the advent of new technologies and an ever-changing cityscape, it is essential these regulations are reviewed and updated to safeguard against any threats to the public’s wellbeing. The City generally reassesses and updates the Fire Code on a three-year cycle and implements other regulatory changes in the interim as needed. With this said, the recent tragedy at Twin Parks demands a review of existing fire safety policies to understand what failures or gaps in the regulations or their enforcement allowed this tragedy to occur.

REBNY aims to ensure that the industry can serve as a useful partner and stakeholder in the policy decisions that must be made in support of greater public safety, fire prevention and building maintenance. In addition to the legislation under consideration at this hearing, there are additional steps the Council could take to further improve fire preventative measures. These include:

  • Establishing an affirmative obligation for building owners and managers to annually inspect theoperations of self-closing doors and maintain records to document proof of that inspection.
  • Establishing a process in which tenants are provided with the right to request a building owner to inspect a self-closing door and to require that tenants are provided notice on how to request this right, like processes for stove knob covers or window guards.
  • Requiring FDNY to distribute the emergency preparedness guide and planning checklist annually instead of on a three-year cycle.
  • Replacing the ability for residents to certify the presence of the emergency preparedness notice on dwelling unit doors with a requirement that owners conduct an annual inspection.
  • Updating the emergency preparedness notice to ensure it is consistent with close the door notices to call greater attention to closing the door upon exit in an emergency.
  • Working with FDNY to partner with building owners to test the viability of a residential fire drill requirement.