Senate Dems to pass slew of fire safety and prevention bills aimed at preventing another Twin Parks tragedy

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Firefighters escort tenants out of the building and to safety after smoke consumed the 19-story Twin Parks high-rise and claimed the lives of 17, including nine children.
Photo Adrian Childress

State Democrats passed a slew of fire legislation aimed at beefing up fire safety and prevention measures in an effort to prevent fires like the one that occurred at the Twin Parks North West high-rise on Jan. 9 which claimed 17 lives, including eight children.

The 10-bill package includes measures that would increase penalties for violations of building and fire code standards, and require space heaters sold in New York state to have thermostats and automatic shut

The proposed legislation would also update the fire prevention and building code more frequently; expand remedies for code violations; address investigations into the administration and enforcement of these codes; establish new emergency contact requirements for managers of multi-family buildings; increase testing of fire hydrants; institute new requirements for the inspection of non-fireproof buildings, and establish an Ombudsperson for Local Code Enforcement Programs and increase the code enforcement powers of the Secretary of State.

Bronx politicos led the charge on the legislative front in the aftermath of the Bronx fire, calling for strengthened fire safety measures, as well as drafting legislation holding negligent landlords accountable for unmet work orders. State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, whose district includes the Fordham Heights section, would increase fines for building and fire code violations as well as building owners who are willfully making a false certification that an issue has been corrected.

“It has been over thirty years since the penalties for housing standards were established in New York City, and since that time our community has experienced immense tragedy due to negligence and lack of adherence to these policies,” said Rivera, a Kingsbridge Heights Progressive. “While we can never remove the pain and suffering for the families of the 17 lives claimed in the Twin Parks fire in my district in The Bronx, we can do everything possible to prevent this tragedy from happening again.”

At the time of the Twin Parks fire, the 52-year-old building had been flagged with 18 open violations and 174 total violations since new the ownership consortium Bronx Park Phase III Preservation LLC had taken over in 2020, records filed with the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development show.

Investigators determined that a malfunctioning space heater that was left on for several days was to blame for the Jan. 9 blaze at the 19-story residential tower in Fordham Heights. Tenants complained that longstanding problems with the building’s heat led many to improvise to stay warm in the winter.

“The recent tragic fires in Bronx communities have highlighted the urgent need for stronger fire safety and code enforcement standards. The legislation that my colleagues and I are passing will strengthen protections against preventable fires and help New York develop a more prepared, responsive, and diligent approach to fire safety and prevention,” said state Sen. Jamaal Bailey, a Baychester Democrat. “My bill, S3606, will increase the number of code enforcement personnel serving local communities and establish a dedicated role in local code enforcement programs to monitor compliance with minimum standards. The legislation will also create the Office of the State Code Enforcement Ombudsperson to resolve issues in local code enforcement programs. We cannot wait until the next tragedy strikes – the steps we’re taking today will help keep our first responders and residents safe and prevent future tragedies.”

New York state surpasses the national average for fire-related injuries and deaths, with 68 casualties reported already this year. Fire safety advocates say that these disasters often affect immigrant and low-income populations, who are less able to absorb the costs of displacement and rebuild in the aftermath of a disaster.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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