On January 9th, 2022, a fire began in a Bronx apartment when a space heater ignited nearby combustibles.  The NYC fire commissioner reported that open fire doors – including the apartment entrance door – allowed the smoke to spread throughout the multifamily high-rise.  17 people were killed, including 8 children, and 44 people were injured.

Last week, NYC Mayor Eric Adams signed an executive order that strengthens fire safety enforcement and outreach in the city.  The order will result in closer collaboration between the NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and the NYC Fire Department (FDNY).  The full text of Executive Order 12 is available on the NYC.gov website, but here are a few key points from the press release:

The executive order will increase coordination and information-sharing between the agencies to better enforce existing fire safety laws. The agencies will also enhance outreach efforts to educate New Yorkers on preventing fires and responding to fire emergencies. Measures include:

  • In addition to looking for housing code violations, HPD inspectors will now look for compliance with FDNY’s requirement that the Fire Safety Notice is posted on the apartment’s entrance door. HPD will communicate information about lack of this signage to FDNY and to the owner of the building.
  • HPD will provide FDNY with access to all violations issued that pertain to fire safety since January 1, 2021. FDNY will use this information to conduct more frequent inspections of buildings with a large number of violations.
  • FDNY inspectors will conduct enhanced inspections for fire signage and posting violations.
  • FDNY and HPD will conduct a broad, educational fire safety outreach campaign, including education related to smoke detectors, self-closing doors, and stove knob covers. Resident outreach will include information on what to do in the event of a fire, and building owners will be reminded of their legal obligations related to fire safety.
  • FDNY will work with the Department of Education to conduct outreach in schools, including educating teachers, staff, and students about appropriate fire safety measures and proper evacuation procedures.


There was an article a few days ago in the Daily News about proposed NYC legislation that would increase penalties for non-compliant doors:

Feliz’s bill, a draft of which was shared with The News ahead of Thursday’s introduction, would make it so that a landlord who submits paperwork with the city falsely asserting they have fixed a faulty self-closing door faces a minimum fine of $500 and a maximum fine of $1,000 per violation — up from the current $50-$250 range.

In addition, the bill would reduce the window of time landlords have to correct a self-closing door violation from 21 to 10 days.

After the 10-day period, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) would be required under Feliz’s measure to manually reinspect a building dinged for a self-closing door violation — a shift in current policy, which allows landlords to certify that the issue has been rectified without reinspection.


I also read an article in the Gotham Gazette by Jacob Wexler recently, calling for the creation of a New York City Office of Fire Door Safety.  What do you think about the idea?

The problem — not just in New York City, but in most jurisdictions — is that this code is not strictly enforced. In other words, thousands of buildings around New York City most likely have not had their fire doors inspected, not annually nor even in the last five years. We have no way of knowing whether fire doors have working smoke seals or correct latching to ensure they automatically close in case of a fire. The fire department certainly doesn’t have the capacity to inspect them; firefighters have more than enough on their hands responding to emergencies. 

This is why New York City needs an Office of Fire Door Assembly, Safety and Protection within city government. There is precedent for this.  

I continue to remain hopeful that NYC’s increased focus on fire doors will continue, and that other jurisdictions will follow suit.

Photo: Ed Reed, Mayoral Photography Office

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