Nearly five months removed from a deadly Fordham Heights fire that claimed the lives of 17 — and an edict from Mayor Eric Adams to double down on fire safety efforts — two city agencies recently launched an outreach campaign in Joyce Kilmer Park.
The FDNY and city Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) kicked off a citywide campaign,“Keeping Homes Fire Safe,” to educate residents and property owners about six key fire safety recommendations. The FDNY and HPD distributed pamphlets on fire safety at the May 19 event in the park and spoke about the importance of self-closing doors and smoke detectors, among other important tips.
The FDNY and HPD teams associated with the outreach will provide a wide range of information, from filing a housing complaint and applying for affordable housing, to valuable life-saving fire safety information, tips and handouts. The campaign will also include coordinated messaging on the internet, a social media blitz and email bulletins to approximately 35,000 property owners in the city.
Additionally, the FDNY is offering residents the opportunity to sign up for free smoke alarm installations through the Sound the Alarm Program, which installs free smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in the homes of New Yorkers.
The goal of the program is to educate property owners about their fire safety responsibilities and remind tenants what to do in the event of a fire. According to the FDNY, the top six ways to keep homes fire safe are: Maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors; close the door; have an escape plan; clear exits; keep your kitchen safe; and heat your home safely.
The city hopes to reach hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers through its new fire safety campaign, HPD officials said.
Coordination between frontline city agencies was paramount in an executive order issued by Adams in March to strengthen the city’s fire safety enforcement and outreach efforts in the wake of the tragic Jan. 9 Twin Parks North West apartment fire, which was the deadliest fire in NYC in more than 30 years — eight children were also killed in the blaze.
Since that order was signed, HPD and the FDNY have partnered on a public fire safety campaign while working to increase interagency coordination and information sharing to prevent fires, the mayor’s office said.
“We must work to equip every New Yorker and every building in this city with the tools to protect themselves from building fires, and today we are taking yet another critical step towards delivering on our commitment to do just that,” said Adams in a statement. “This campaign will connect hundreds of thousands of property owners and residents to vital, lifesaving information to help prevent future tragedies. We will continue pursuing this necessary work because New Yorkers’ lives are at stake.”
At the time of the Twin Parks blaze that city officials said displaced 120 families, the 52-year-old high-rise on East 181st Street had been flagged with 18 open violations, and 174 total violations since new ownership Bronx Park Phase III Preservation LLC — a consortium consisting of three property owners — took over in 2020, records filed with the city HPD show.
The Twin Parks fire was ignited by a faulty space heater, according to fire officials. But the fire quickly enveloped the building in excessive smoke due to a malfunctioning self-closing door in the apartment unit where the blaze originated.
Tenants of the building have said that issues with heat and hot water, as well as malfunctioning smoke detectors and improperly working self-closing doors were commonplace.
The Twin Parks property owners, through a spokesperson, previously told the Bronx Times that “the building’s front doors, fire alarms and hot water systems were working properly at the time of the fire.”
In the year preceding the fire, however, residents of Twin Parks filed more than 30 complaints that detailed dangerous and poor living conditions, including 311 filings about ventilation and fire retardant material. And complaints dated from December 2020, all of which have been marked as closed, describe apartments that had no heat. As as a result, the city and property owners of the housing complex are facing four lawsuits, including a class action lawsuit seeking $4 million in damages.
“We were all struck by the tragedy of the Twin Parks fire,” said HPD Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr., a former Bronx borough president. “This education campaign is an important step to help ensure that we all have the information we need to prevent another tragedy. Together, HPD and FDNY are working to prevent household fires. Paired with enhanced coordination on enforcing fire safety measures, we will equip New Yorkers with knowledge about preventing and containing fires to work to prevent tragic fires like the one at Twin Parks from ever occurring again.”
As part of the outreach efforts, more than 20 public events are scheduled throughout the city, with more expected to be added, according to HPD.
-with reporting by Robbie Sequeira
Reach Christian Falcone at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 260-2541. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes