Keeping a Fire Escape Clear

Photo

CreditMichael Kolomatsky/The New York Times 

Ask Real Estate is a weekly column that answers questions from across the New York region. Submit yours to realestateqa@nytimes.com.

Air-Conditioner in the Way?

I live in a co-op building and have an air-conditioner in my living room window, which is one of two windows that look out onto the fire escape. The air-conditioner does not block access to the fire escape. However, my building manager says city rules prohibit an air-conditioner in a fire escape window. But the Bureau of Fire Prevention told me that I could have one in that window as long as it does not extend out onto the fire escape. Who is correct?

Upper East Side, Manhattan

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, and many New Yorkers will likely spend part of it hoisting unwieldy air-conditioners into their apartment windows. I imagine some of them are eyeing their fire escape windows as a prime location for such an installation. But they should pause, as a fire escape is not an unofficial balcony to be adorned with potted plants or blocked by an air-conditioner. A fire escape is what its name suggests: an escape route for people fleeing or fighting a fire. And it should be free of obstructions. “There should be a focus on safety, fire safety to be specific,” said Joel E. Abramson, a Manhattan real estate lawyer.

The arrangement you described might be permitted by city rules. In general, residents are prohibited from installing air-conditioners in fire escape windows. But they can install one in a fire escape window if the apartment has a second window onto the fire escape that is large enough to be used as an emergency exit. Keep in mind that the alternate window must be large and easily accessible. (A small bathroom window, for example, would not suffice.) The air-conditioner should not extend more than five inches onto the fire escape balcony or obstruct the flow of foot traffic, according to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. So if the unit you installed blocks the fire escape in any way, it should go. And even if it doesn’t, you still might want to consider a safer alternative.

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. Fire Escape

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Many of those displaced by the fire across from City Hall had to escape flames; one man at the Red Cross Shelter saying he barely made it out alive.

“It was horrible. It was like hell on earth,”  said Anthony Cortese of Schenectady.

Cortese was sitting quietly at a Red Cross Shelter on State Street when he told NEWS10ABC about his escape from his apartment at 104 Jay Street. It caught fire early Friday morning in Schenectady.

“It was so hot and the smoke was so bad. The last thing I managed to do was pull the fire alarm,” said Cortese.

Cortese says he had to make a quick decision if he wanted to make it out alive.

“So I ended up climbing out my window, grabbing onto some cables on the building swinging over to the fire escape. The fire escape door wouldn’t open in the hallway. By that time the flames were going through the hallway like a blast furnace,” Cortese said.

Flames so terrifying, Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett says one person jumped from the fifth floor window. Cortese says he saw that man who suffered a broken back and other injuries according to officials.

“As I was climbing out my window a gentleman jumped from the fifth floor right passed me. He hit the ground, I grabbed him and dragged him away,”Cortese said.

Before escaping, Cortese said he noticed his friends couch was on fire, that friend he says didn’t make it out.

“The last thing I heard was my friend Harry screaming,” said Cortese.

Officials do believe at least one person at this time is unaccounted for. The Red Cross is providing shelter food and other items to around 25 people at the Christ Episcopal Church on State Street.

“What I have now is the clothes on my back so I’ll be OK,” Cortese said.

Authorities have not confirmed if anyone was found inside that wasn’t able to get out.

Brooklyn fire in East Flatbush

Brooklyn fire in East Flatbush injures six people, including mother and 2-year-old daughter: officials

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Published: Saturday, March 28, 2015, 11:07 AM
Updated: Saturday, March 28, 2015, 11:54 PM
A fire broke out inside a three-story multi-family home in East Flatbush about 9:15 a.m. Six people were injured, including a mother and daughter taken to the hospital.
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  • A fire broke out inside the three-story multi-family home on Clarendon Rd. near E. 32nd St. in East Flatbush about 9:15 a.m.
  • NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

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COURTESY RICARDO WALLINGTON

A fire broke out inside a three-story multi-family home in East Flatbush about 9:15 a.m. Six people were injured, including a mother and daughter taken to the hospital.

A Brooklyn mother selflessly fought wind-whipped flames raging through her East Flatbush home Saturday morning to rescue her trapped 2-year-old daughter.

Six residents were injured in the 9:15 a.m. blaze inside the three-story multifamily home — including the mother and her daughter — after a frenzied search punctuated by the heroics of city firefighters and an off-duty cop.

“We saw flames shooting out from the second-floor window right here,” said neighbor Kwanza Butler, 39, who watched in horror as people ran from the burning building and a woman screamed from a top-floor window.

“There were people on the third floor yelling, ‘Help!’ At one point, this woman on the third-floor (fire escape) was almost engulfed in flames,” said Butler. “It just covered her. People came out with no clothes, no pants on.”

The 32-year-old mom was fighting for her life at Kings County Hospital after rushing into the burning building in search of her toddler, police and witnesses said.

A fire broke out inside a three-story multi-family home in East Flatbush about 9:15 a.m. Seven people are injured, three critically.
PreviousNext
  • A fire broke out inside a three-story multi-family home in East Flatbush about 9:15 a.m. Seven people are injured, three critically.
  • Six people were injured, three critically including a child, in a fire at 3202 Clarendon Road in Brooklyn on Saturday March 28th, 2015.
  • NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi
  • (40yr old off duty NYPD Officer Robert Stultz banged on the doors of the connected buildings telling residents to get out) Six people were injured, three critically including a child, in a fire at 3202 Clarendon Road in Brooklyn on Saturday March 28th, 2015. 0948. (Theodore Parisienne/for New York Daily News).

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DEBBIE EGAN-CHIN/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

The 32-year-old mother was fighting for her life at Kings County Hospital, while her daughter was also brought to the hospital, and is in serious but stable condition.

The woman’s daughter was in serious but stable condition at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center. Both suffered from smoke inhalation after being trapped by the flames, cops said.

Two other people were hospitalized with minor injuries and two refused medical attention.

The fire broke out inside the home on Clarendon Road near E. 32nd St. in East Flatbush about 9:15 a.m. Firefighters had the blaze under control at 9:38 a.m., officials said.

While the cause of the fire was under investigation late Saturday, sources said it was likely ignited by a cigarette.

7 Injured In Flatbush Fire
NY Daily News

“The lady came to the window and I told her to get out,” said neighbor Ricardo Wallington, 62. “The fire kept going. We went into the building, but the fire was too much. We couldn’t go up.”

The heart-wrenching cries for help had passerby Roseann Kim, 34, hoping for a miracle.

“So someone came out and said, ‘Somebody help me! Somebody help me!’ ” Kim said.

“She couldn’t get out from the fire escape. She was on the third floor and said, ‘Somebody help me, there’s a baby inside!’ I pray for those families.”

Map shows location of Saturday morning fire in East Flatbush.

The fire broke out on Clarendon Rd. near E. 32nd St. in East Flatbush at a multi-family home.

Firefighter Mike Marchese, from Ladder 157, was able to rescue the mother, toddler and a third person from the third-floor apartment under heavy fire and smoke conditions, Battalion Chief Francis McCarthy said.

“It comes with the pros and the cons of the job,” a humble Marchese said. “Hopefully, everything works out from this.”

Meanwhile, off-duty cop Robert Stultz, 40, rushed door-to-door to warn neighbors about the blaze. “My neighbors were in trouble,” Stultz said. “I looked out the window. I saw smoke. I knocked on doors.”

“I just thought about my neighbors,” the selfless nine-year NYPD veteran said. “If something happens, I’m jumping in.”

The near-fatal fire occurred a week after seven children, the youngest 5, the oldest 16, were killed in a searing blaze that broke out in Midwood, Brooklyn. The March 21 fire was sparked by an unattended hot plate, officials said.

Housing inspectors seek legal action

 

Housing inspectors are seeking legal action against the owners of three apartment buildings in the Mission District for blocking fire escapes and having alarm systems that don’t work.

The request that the city attorney’s office pursue legal action comes soon after two deadly fires in the Mission and complaints that at least one of the burned buildings was for years in violation of safety code regulations.

Officials with the city’s Department of Building Inspection said the recent fires led them to reinspect residential apartment buildings along Mission Street for safety hazards and rush cases involving repeat violators to the city attorney.

“We are being very proactive and fast-tracking these types of cases to the city attorney,” said Rosemary Bosque, the department’s chief housing inspector.

This week, the department referred three cases to City Attorney Dennis Herrera for violations at 901-907 Valencia St., 2114 Mission St. and 2420 Folsom St.

Safety code violations at 901-907 Valencia, a 20-unit building at 20th and Valencia streets, date back to August, according to the department. The building has received four citations for missing and nonworking smoke detectors, a blocked fire escape and rotting wood that makes up the structural supports for a 40-foot stairway.

The 10-unit building at 2114 Mission, at 16th and Mission streets, has been the subject of two citations for a non-functioning alarm system, and chained and padlocked exits. The owner of that building also owns 2420 Folsom, a seven-unit building at 20th and Folsom streets. A housing inspector cited that building for having a nonfunctioning fire extinguisher and blocked fire escapes.

Yvonne Mere, chief attorney for the neighborhood and resident protection unit of the city attorney’s office, said three referrals in one day for safety code violations “is not an insignificant number.” Mere said the city attorney must review the referrals before deciding whether to file lawsuits against the owners.

The Mission has had an unusually high number of fires in recent months. In September, a fire engulfed a three-story building at 23rd and Mission streets.

In January, a fire at 22nd and Mission killed one man and left more than 50 low-income residents homeless. San Francisco fire inspectors found safety violations at the building — missing fire extinguishers, blocked fire escapes, inoperable smoke alarms and locked exits — that had gone unfixed for years.

Earlier this month, a fire on 24th and Treat streets left one man dead and injured his wife and three children.

Bosque said that since the fire at 22nd and Mission, investigators have been deployed to review safety code standards at 126 residential apartment buildings on Mission Street from Third Street to Geneva Avenue. She said cases involving repeat violations would be referred to the city attorney’s office for legal action.

Emily Green is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: egreen@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @emilytgreen

 

Plan to Remove Greene Street Fire Escapes

Residents Fear Developer’s Plan to Remove Greene Street Fire Escapes

By Danielle Tcholakian | March 18, 2015 3:11pm

Slideshow

 The owner of 69 and 71-73 Greene St. wants to remove the fire escapes from the front and back of both buildings.

69 & 71-73 Greene St.

SOHO — Tenants in two landmarked buildings fear for their safety because of their landlord’s plan to remove the external fire escapes from their buildings.

But the architect hired by the owner of 69 and 71-73 Greene St. to carry out the changes to the buildings’ front and rear façades says removing the fire escapes is allowed under city code, because the 4-foot-wide stairwells in both buildings exceed the city’s fire egress requirement, which is just two feet.

And the architect insisted his plan will leave the building better off in the event of a fire.

“There actually is a positive thing in terms of fire safety,” architect Joseph Pell Lombardi said. “Because while we’re taking down the fire escapes, we are installing a deluge system of sprinklers.”

Department of Buildings spokesman said the egress requirement Lombardi referenced is in the city’s Multiple Dwellings Law, but that there are several criteria that will need to be met when Lombardi applies for permits to remove the fire escapes.

“The applicant will need to demonstrate in the plans that the fire escape is not necessary, and that the alteration complies with applicable buildings codes including an adequate means of egress in the event of an emergency,” the spokesman said.

At a public meeting Tuesday night, Lombardi’s assistant, Elyse Marks, said she has been inspecting fire escapes professionally for years, and insisted they are extremely dangerous.

“Most of these fire escapes are death traps,” Marks told Community Board 2‘s landmarks committee Tuesday night. “I stopped going out on them after I did my first inspection. Just ’cause it’s there, doesn’t mean you should use it.”

But tenants at Tuesday night’s meeting said the interior staircase is rickety, “very steep,” and “unreliable.”

It’s also made of wood.

“The stairwell is not a straight line all the way down,” said Johan Sellenraad, who has lived in 69 Greene St. for 37 years. Sellenraad lives on the fifth floor, and said the stairway twists and turns after the fourth floor, becoming difficult to maneuver.

“It may be wide,” added Nancy Rosenfeld, a tenant at 69 Greene St., who provided photos of the stairs, “but it is steep, uneven, [and] the steps are bowed and warped.”

Because the buildings were declared landmarks by the city, Pell needs permission from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to make changes to the exteriors. The LPC is scheduled to hear his pitch on Tuesday, March 24.

Residents also insisted Tuesday night that the fire escapes were integral to the character of the building and Greene Street as a whole.

Pell, who is a well known preservation and restoration architect, argued that the fire escapes did not merit preservation because they were “not original” to the building.

“The original cast iron buildings are compromised by these late addition fire escapes,” Pell insisted. “The owner feels very strongly, and we agree, that they detract from the building.”

But the fire escapes have been on the building since at least the 1940s, according to tax photographs included in Lombardi’s application, and are pictured in photographs from the LPC’s official designation report for the buildings, also included in the application.

“Whether [or not] you consider them aesthetically worthy, they are a visual element that everybody looks at,” said Joanna Coyle, who attended the meeting on behalf of her brother Patrick Gorman, a fifth-floor tenant at 71 Greene St. “They absolutely define the sense of the place.”

The buildings’ owner attempted to win CB2‘s approval to remove the fire escapes last year, but were rejected in a resolution declaring that “the fire escape, although not original, is historic and adds to the character of the historic district” and quoted a letter from a retired FDNY captain who decried the push to remove the fire escapes as “indefensible and unconscionable” and “insane.”

According to last year’s resolution, the owner also “illegally removed historic fire shutters on the rear facade without LPC permits,” and proposed installing new, different windows for market-rate tenants but not for rent-stabilized loft tenants.”

The management company for both buildings declined to comment.

The CB2 Landmarks committee voted Tuesday night to recommend denial of the removal of the fire escapes because the two adjacent buildings have fire escapes, as do several others on the block, “and thus this is part of the character of that block,” said committee co-chair Sean Sweeney.

Sweeney also questioned Lombardi’s argument about the internal staircase.

“Just because the stairs technically pass code, a narrow wooden staircase, some 130 years old, worn and rickety and askew, is not adequate,” Sweeney said. “Remember the Happy Land fire, where people could not escape up the stairs?”

Woman Stranded on an East Village Fire Escape

Meet the Drummer Who Rescued Woman Stranded on an East Village Fire Escape

By James Fanelli and Danielle Tcholakian  | March 27, 2015 3:27pm

 Austin Branda, a humble East Village drummer, bounded up a fire escape to save a stranded resident after Thursday's explosion.

Austin Branda, a humble East Village drummer, bounded up a fire escape to save a stranded resident after Thursday’s explosion. View Full Caption

DNAinfo New York/Danielle Tcholakian

NEW YORK CITY — When Austin Branda heard Thursday’s massive explosion in the East Village, the aspiring Broadway drummer didn’t miss a beat, immediately springing into the role of hero.

Branda, 45, was the mystery man caught on cell phone video bounding up a fire escape in the minutes after the blast to help save a stranded woman.

The heart-pounding footage shows a frantic resident at 121 Second Ave. — where the explosion emanated — stuck on the lowest level of the fire escape, unable to lower the fire ladder and reach the ground.
Branda can be seen grabbing a chair from the next-door restaurant, Pommes Frites, climbing on it and preparing to jump up to grab the lower rung of the ladder.

Luckily, he didn’t have to make the leap as the woman, with the instruction of an off-duty firefighter, was able to release the ladder down to the ground.

“She finally got it released, and I just flew up,” Branda told DNAinfo New York Friday morning.

When he reached the woman, he got her to hand over her cell phone, then guided her down the ladder as he moved from one rung to the next below her.

“I was body-guarding her against the railing, so if she fell, I’d catch her,” he recalled.

Branda, who works as an usher at Broadway shows, but dreams of joining the pit orchestra as a percussionist, said he was practicing his drums in his apartment when the blast knocked him off his seat.

“I pretty much got blown out of my chair,” he said. “My teeth rattled — and my heart and chest.”

His apartment was directly across from 121 Second Ave., so when he looked out the window to see what happened, he saw the wreckage. The blast had torn through four buildings, leaving a fiery inferno.

Branda said he immediately thought there was a terrorist attack and scanned the street for anyone acting suspiciously.

Then Branda thought back to his childhood, when he lived in Italy while his dad attended medical school there. He remembered a similar explosion of the dry cleaner underneath their home.

“[My dad’s] reaction was to grab ice and towels,” Branda recalled. He did the same Thursday and then headed to the street.

“I ran out of the building and as soon as I ran out, I fixed my eye on this lady on the fire escape,” he said.

When he got the woman back on the ground, he rubbed her back and said, “I’m sorry about this,” to her.

After the good deed, he headed back to his apartment to check on his cat.

Branda said helping the stranded resident wasn’t a big deal.

“I was just one of the guys helping,” he said.

His fiancée, Jessie McGee, thinks otherwise.

“In my eyes, he’s a true New York City hero every day,” she said, “always quick to help anyone he sees in trouble.”

Jersey City man who fell to his death (from Fire Escape)

 

Authorities release name of Jersey City man who fell to his death

 

Jersey City Fire Escape Fatality

A 74-year-old Jersey City man who was cleaning a fire escape died after the counterweight from the fire escape’s ladder broke loose, struck him on the head and sent him falling to the ground this morning, officials said.  

At 11:30 a.m. officers responding to the backyard of 2684 Kennedy Blvd. found the the man, who was identified as Angel Feneque, unresponsive on the ground near the fire escape, bleeding from his nose, a police report says.

The victim’s wife told police that Feneque was the building superintendent and was cleaning the fire escape when the fatal incident occurred, the report says.  

It is unclear how far Feneque fell.

Police viewed security video that showed Feneque was putting a ladder next to the fire escape. As he pulled the fire escape’s ladder down, its counterweight broke loose and struck him on top of the head, the report says.

An ambulance from the Jersey City Medical Center responded and emergency medical technicians began life saving procedure, the report says. Feneque was rushed to the Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, officials said. 

“I heard a bang,” said Juan Serrano, 42, who lives in the building. “Then I saw someone lying in the back of the building. He had blood coming from his nose and the back of his head. The back of his head was really hurt.”

By Michaelangelo Conte | The Jersey Journal 
Follow on Twitter 
on June 26, 2014 at 6:08 PM

Journal staff writer Patrick McGovern contributed to this report.

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Woman falls 15 feet after fire escape collapses

_

  • New Bedford woman falls 15

    feet after fire escape collapses

    NEW BEDFORD — A city woman fell at least 15 feet from a 

    fire escape when a portion of it collapsed Thursday

    evening, according to police.

By JONATHAN CARVALHO 

  • Posted May. 17, 2014 @ 12:01 am
    Updated May 17, 2014 at 3:15 AM 

 

 

NEW BEDFORD — A city woman fell at least 15 feet from a fire escape when a portion of it collapsed Thursday evening, according to police.

 

At 6:50 p.m., Paige Pimental, 20, of New Bedford fell from the escape at the rear of 1215 Purchase St. and suffered fractures to both legs, police said. She was taken to Rhode Island Hospital.

Pimental ended up on a building landing at the structure, ownership of which is apparently in dispute between the city of New Bedford and UMass Dartmouth.

The Fire Department used a rescue basket and pulleys to get her safely to the ground, police said.

Pimental admitted to having smoked marijuana and drinking alcohol, but did not explain why she and a friend were at the building, according to police, who said no charges are being brought.

Fire Chief Michael Gomes said Pimental and a friend were on the roof of the building — which is attached to the Quest Center business incubator — when they “hopped onto a fire escape and the platform gave way,” leading to a fall of “15 to 20 feet.”

“Due to the condition of the fire escape, we didn’t feel it would be safe to carry her down on the escape,” hence the use of a rescue basket and pulleys, Gomes said.

“It does not look as if (the fire escapes) have been receiving adequate care,” the chief said.

Pimental was listed in good condition Friday night, according to Keith Raymond, a spokesman at Rhode Island Hospital.

The building at 1215 Purchase St. is attached to 1213 Purchase St. where the Quest Center houses the New Bedford Health Department and the New Bedford Economic Development Council.

Both buildings are pictured on the city assessors’ website as part of 1213 Purchase St. and listed as owned by the city of New Bedford.

But city and UMass Dartmouth officials disputed who owns the 1215 Purchase building Friday.

The city’s public information officer, Elizabeth Treadup Pio, said she believes the building is owned by UMass Dartmouth while UMass Dartmouth spokesman John Hoey, said he believes it is owned by the city.

The Bristol County Registry of Deeds website lists 1213 Purchase St. as owned by the city and does not list any building as being located at 1215 Purchase St.

Pio said the city did not notify the press about the accident because the police or fire departments would normally do that.

Police on the daily police log Friday listed an “Injured Person” at the “UMass Building” at 6:50 p.m. Thursday.

Fire Chief Gomes called the paper Friday and said two young women on Thursday had climbed to the top of the (former)”SMTI building” (Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute).

One of them, he said, had then fallen from a collapsed fire escape and was seriously injured.

– See more at: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140517/NEWS/405170325#sthash.1PUPMfEb.dpuf