City Council Passes Package of Fire Safety Related Bills in Response to Twin Parks Fire

Image credit: New York City Council.

The bills aim to prevent the circumstances that took 17 lives from occurring again in the future. On May 19, 2022, the City Council voted to approve a package of five bills to improve fire safety and prevention measures in residences as part of the City’s response to the tragic Twin Parks high-rise fire which killed 17 people in the Bronx this past January. The fire was a result of a space heater, and the resulting smoke spread up a stairwell after the self-closing door failed to contain the smoke within the unit. All seventeen deaths were from smoke inhalation. After the fire, the Committee on Twin Parks Citywide Taskforce on Fire Prevention was formed by the City Council as a response to the tragedy, and Council Members worked to propose various legislation to improve fire safety. 

The bills passed in this package respond to a variety of issues that arose or led to the Twin Parks fire. In 2018, the City Council passed Local Law 111 in response to another deadly fire, which requires doors providing access to stairs or interior corridors be self-closing or have devices to ensure closing. The failure to maintain these doors would be an “immediately hazardous” violation. In the Twin Parks fire, the failure of a door to close properly allowed the smoke to spread in the building. While Local Law 111 helps improve safety, the tragedy at Twin Parks demonstrated that more action was needed. 

Int. 0104-2022 amends the administrative code to add a new paragraph concerning the definition of “self-closing doors.” The new definition states that self-closing doors are fireproof doors “equipped with a device that will ensure closing after having been opened and which does not require a key to open from inside a dwelling.” Self-closing doors are required in multi-unit buildings with three or more units; in the event of a fire, a self-closing door is meant to slow or prevent the spread of a fire from within a unit into the hallway or other units. 

Int. 0105A-2022 would reduce the amount of time a landlord has to correct a violation to keep or maintain self-closing doors from 21 days to 14 days. After 14 days, an inspection is required by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) within twenty days regardless of whether the landlord has submitted a certificate of correction or not. The bill also increases civil penalties for landlords’ willful false certification of correction. Int. 104 and 105A were sponsored by Council Member Oswald Feliz, the Chair of the Twin Parks Citywide Taskforce on Fire Prevention. 

Int. 0106A-2022 would prohibit the sale of electric space heaters without an automatic shut-off and thermostat functionality. It would also ban the sale of electric space heaters that have not been certified by a testing and certification organization approved and recognized by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. This bill was sponsored by Council Member Shahana K. Hanif. 

Int. 131A-2022 changes requirements for the Fire Department’s efforts in conducting fire safety education and outreach for residential buildings. The bill requires the Fire Department to share information regarding the safe operation of electric space heaters in residential settings. The information must be made available in the top ten languages spoken in New York City. The bill was sponsored by Council Member Pierina Sanchez. 

Int. 155A-2022 waives permit filing fees for owners of one- to three- family homes who are making repairs to damage caused by a fire or to correct construction defects discovered after the fire. The waiver extends to other dwellings in the same homeowner’s or cooperative association with the same construction defect. The bill was sponsored by Council Member David Carr.

Speaker Adrienne Adams stated, “The Twin Parks fire in the Bronx was one of the worst tragedies in the history of New York City. While we continue to mourn the lives of the 17 New Yorkers we lost that day, the Council is taking meaningful and concrete actions to ensure tragedies like this will never happen again. This package of legislation bolsters current safety measures to protect residents. I am thankful to Twin Parks Citywide Taskforce on Fire Prevention Chair Feliz and Council Members Hanif, Sanchez, and Carr for their leadership on these critical bills that will save lives.”

Council Member Feliz stated, “Properly-functioning self-closing doors could have prevented the unspeakable Twin Parks tragedy. Had the self-closing doors worked, smoke wouldn’t have filled the 19-story tower, and families would’ve been able to safely escape the fire. We cannot allow another similar tragedy to ever happen again. These fire safety bills will ensure that self-closing door laws are scrupulously followed and enforced. The mandatory re-inspections and increased civil penalties will help ensure that violations are taken seriously and promptly corrected; and that landlords who fail to do so are held accountable. Self-closing doors are crucial fire-fighting and life-saving equipment. These bills will help ensure that the doors are closing, and protecting our families.”

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By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)



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