REBNY Comments: A Proposed Rule that Would Require Certain Buildings to Post a Hurricane Evacuation Notice in Common Space and Owners to Inspect the Presence of Emergency Preparedness Information on Dwelling Unit Doors

Download the Testimony

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is the City’s leading real estate trade association representing commercial, residential, and institutional property owners, builders, managers, investors, brokers, salespeople, and other organizations and individuals active in New York City real estate. REBNY thanks the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) for the opportunity to comment on the proposed rule that would require certain buildings to post a hurricane evacuation notice in the lobby of apartment buildings as well as require owners to post and inspect fire and emergency preparedness plans on dwelling unit doors.

The frequency, intensity, and duration of hurricanes in the North Atlantic has consistently increased over the past decades.1 As evident from superstorm sandy New York is not immune. The winds and flooding devastated coastal infrastructure and demonstrated a danger to life. Unfortunately, that level of destruction is no longer a once in 100-year occurrence but an annual possibility.2 With proper planning and precautionary measures, however, New York City can prepare itself and mitigate loss. REBNY supports FDNY’s efforts to ensure buildings have emergency plans in place and that residents have access to the information.

REBNY supports FDNY’s commitment to safety and planning for emergencies and believes this rule could be strengthened by more directly disseminating the information to tenants. FDNY requires the fire and emergency preparedness guide as well as the checklist to be distributed to tenants every three years. The guide includes information about risks associated with hurricanes but does not allow space for owners and managers to identify the property’s hurricane evacuation zone before circulating to tenants. Tenants would be better informed if the guide and checklist indicated that the hurricane evacuation zone could be found on a notice in the building common space.

REBNY appreciates FDNY’s determination to increase the accessibility of safety information to all tenants by requiring owners to inspect dwelling unit doors to ensure compliance with the requirement to post the fire and emergency notice at least once every two years. To implement this requirement, we encourage FDNY to provide owners with clarity on how they should maintain records that such an inspection took place and articulate any enforcement regime that will result from this requirement.

In addition, while §401.6 of the New York City Fire Code generally requires the property owner to provide the emergency preparedness guide and post the fire and emergency notice to the interior door of the dwelling unit, the obligation to make such a posting does not apply to cooperatives and condominiums. Based on this precedent, FDNY should make it explicit that the amended regulation does not apply to these buildings. However, if FDNY chooses to extend the posting and inspection requirement to these units, we believe the obligation to inspect should fall on the shareholder or unit-owner rather than the board. Shareholders and unit-owners are better positioned than the board or managing agent to conduct such an inspection, which is why City law requires these individuals – rather than boards or managing agents – to conduct inspections in other provisions of local law.

Thank you for the consideration of these points.

# # #

1 National Climate Assessment (2014) U.S. Global Change Research Program. https://nca2014.globalchange.gov/report/our-changing-climate/changes-hurricanes 2 Marsooli, R., Lin, N., Emanuel, K. et al. Climate change exacerbates hurricane flood hazards along US Atlantic and Gulf Coasts in spatially varying patterns. Nat Commun 10, 3785 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-11755-z

# # #

CONTACT(S):

Zachary Steinberg
Vice President, Policy & Planning
Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY)
(212) 616-5227
zsteinberg@rebny.com