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After Deadly Fires, Federal Legislators Propose Bill To Require Heat Sensors In Buildings

The Bronx

A New York congressman and senator are working on a bill that would require buildings that receive federal government funding to install heat sensors.

The proposed law from Rep. Ritchie Torres and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is in response to this month’s fatal building fire in the west Bronx — in Torres' district — which killed 17 people and was sparked by a space heater, according to city officials.

“New York City’s four worst fires in the past 30 years have all been in the Bronx. And that is not an accident,” Torres told The Real Deal. “That is a consequence of systemic disinvestment from affordable housing.”

The bill would give the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and state and local housing administrators the ability to track the heat levels in buildings remotely. Torres is also looking into measures that would require self-closing doors in buildings that receive federal funds, like Section 8 housing. 

The blaze earlier this month ripped through part of Twin Parks North West, an apartment tower at 333 East 181st St. The property was built in 1972 through federal affordable housing programs, and it was sold by Cammeby's International in 2020 to a joint venture of Camber Property Group, Belveron Partners and LIHC Investment Group. Those killed in the fire, the deadliest in New York City in 30 years, died while trying to escape down a stairway, according to The Guardian

The Real Estate Board of New York is examining the proposal, and a spokesperson for the building owners told TRD they were considering the viability of additional safety measures, but said the building was up to code and that it had self-closing doors. 

The Bronx fire came less than two weeks after more than a dozen people were killed in a fire in a building owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority.