Law requiring installation of fire sprinklers could cause foreclosures: Bed-Stuy locals

fire sprinkler
A host of Bedford-Stuyvesant organizations and politicians are speaking out against a law that would force many homeowners to install expensive fire sprinkler systems.
Photo by Susan De Vries

Bedford-Stuyvesant residents are fighting a City Council bill that requires homeowners to install fire sprinklers in buildings that are four or more stories tall — arguing that the cost of installation would raise rents and hurt landlords. 

“This law will have a catastrophic impact on lower-density neighborhoods where owner-occupied multi-family buildings are common,” says a petition on Change.org by Bedford-Stuyvesant’s 200 Jefferson Avenue Block Association that has garnered 432 signatures since it was put up on Monday.

The proposed amendment to New York City’s administrative code, introduced in 2018, would require sprinklers to be installed in all residential buildings over 40 feet tall by 2029. The bill was reportedly introduced to “close a loophole” that allowed skyscrapers to be built without sprinklers after a fire broke out in Trump Tower in Manhattan.

The new code would also apply to lots of 19th century townhouses in Brooklyn, many of which are single-family homes. Installing a fire sprinkler system would likely start at $60,000 and could easily exceed $100,000. Sprinkler installation can also trigger the need for expensive structural reinforcements and destroy historic interior details.

Many homeowners are unlikely to have the necessary funds on hand to comply with the law, and will face steep fines for non-compliance, potentially resulting in forced sales or liens and foreclosures. The bill could also be especially devastating to longtime property owners, many of whom are Black and live in central Brooklyn, and tenants in affordable housing, critics argue.

One of the backers of the petition who opposes the bill lives in a multi-generational household in a row house purchased by his Black, working-class great-grandparents in the 1920s. If the bill goes through, the family could lose the house, he said.

Other sponsors include Council members Barry Grodenchik, Robert Cornegy, Carlos Menchaca and eight others. Community Board 3 is delivered a statement against the bill and testified at the hearing about the proposal on Wednesday.

The hearing comes as homeowners grappled with a recent gas pipe certification ruling, which added requirements to owners of residential buildings with at least three units, and a steep hike in property tax proposed by a de Blasio commission that could cause mass property selloffs in central Brooklyn. De Blasio, however, recently promised not to increase property taxes in his last year in office.

This article first appeared on Brownstoner.com.