The Historic Districts Council is the citywide advocate for New York’s historic buildings and neighborhoods. HDC is commenting on the proposed bill, Int. 1146-B (called “the Sprinkler Bill”) as the vast majority of properties that this bill will affect lie within New York City’s historic neighborhoods The NYC Department of Buildings estimates that this bill, if enacted as proposed, will probably apply to and affect 85,000 buildings throughout the city. Our main concern are the older homes and apartments which have not yet been retrofitted with sprinkler systems.
To be blunt, the installation of new sprinkler systems within residential units is a major undertaking with vast ramifications which this bill, as proposed, does nothing to address. The installation of sprinkler systems requires wall penetration in several places, which creates an uninhabitable situation for residents. Additionally, the invasive process may destroy historic interior features such as original plaster, woodwork and finishes as well as releasing possible hazards such as asbestos and lead paint. This bill has no mechanism for reimbursing the building residents or owners for the expense of necessary relocation, the loss of rental income or the cost of necessary interior restoration. The potential loss of historic materials from this bill is heartbreaking, the probable cost of installation incurred by this bill could be crippling – and that’s not even considering the collateral financial and physical damage which the necessary water system upgrades will incur.
These costs will be borne by property owners but undoubtedly passed along to building residents. Cash-strapped coops will be forced to level massive assessments for this work, small property-owners will have to take out large loans and large-scale property managers will make up their shortfalls by raising rents across the board. This single bill could do more than imagined to further exacerbate New York City’s housing affordability crisis. No one wants to stand in the way of fire-safety procedures but this is an unproven, unenforceable bill which will have grave negative consequences for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and the historic buildings they call home.