Loft-owner had a freestanding structure in their studio with a suspended ceiling that blocked access to sprinkler system. Marsha Pels owns a studio space at 99 Commercial Street in Greenpoint Brooklyn. In the middle of the studio the owner had a freestanding structure that contained a bed. On May 11, 2012, a fire department inspector observed that the freestanding structure had a suspended ceiling that was approximately 10 feet below the studio’s ceiling where sprinkler heads were installed. The FDNY issued a violation because the suspended ceiling would impede proper operation of the sprinklers in the event of fire.
The owner argued that the studio was protected by the Loft Law, and that while the building was being brought up to code, the Loft Law exempted the building from the enforcement of any rule or law except for the issues of a vacate order. The FDNY argued that the suspended ceiling could allow fire to spread through the studio before the sprinkler alarms were activated.
On appeal, the Environmental Control Board agreed with the FDNY. ECB ruled it was irrelevant that the Loft Law provided no prohibition of enforcement of the Fire Code since the suspended ceiling causing the violation was created by the owner independent of conditions that were in the process of being brought up to building code. ECB ruled that the owner was responsible for maintaining the studio up to Fire Code and imposed a penalty of $475. On appeal, the First Department agreed with ECB.
Matter of Pels v. N.Y.C. Envtl. Control Bd., 29 N.Y.S.3d 164 (1st Dep’t Mar. 15, 2016) (Attorneys: Robert M. Petrucci, for Pels; Zachary W. Carter, Elizabeth SA. Natrella, for City)
By: Brian Kaszuba (Brian is the CityLand Editor and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2004).