Brooklynites Fight Proposed Sprinkler Law They Say Will Cause Row House Evictions, Foreclosure

Bed Stuy. Photo by Susan De Vries

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    A Bed Stuy block association and Community Board 3 are fighting a proposed sprinkler law they say could devastate homeowners and tenants in Brooklyn and beyond. Introduced in 2018, Intro 1146B is coming up for review by the New York City Council Wednesday, December 2.

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

    As written, the bill would typically apply to Brooklyn houses with four or more stories, such as 19th century townhouses — including single-family houses. Installing such a 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.

    “This law will have a catastrophic impact on lower-density neighborhoods where owner-occupied multi-family buildings are common,” according to a Change.org petition against the proposal started by Bed Stuy’s 200 Jefferson Avenue Block Association. The petition has garnered 432 signatures since it was put up Monday.

    Many homeowners are unlikely to have 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 law is likely to be especially devastating to longtime property owners, which includes many Black households in central Brooklyn, and tenants in naturally occurring affordable housing.

    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.

    prospect heights

    Prospect Heights. Photo by Susan De Vries

    Sponsors include council members Barry Grodenchik, Robert Cornegy, Carlos Menchaca and eight others. Community Board 3 is reportedly preparing a statement against the bill and plans to testify at the 1 p.m. hearing Wednesday.

    The hearing will be available for virtual viewing on Wednesday, December 2 at 1 p.m. Full details can be found on the City Council online calendar.

    A recent gas pipe certification ruling has also added requirements to owners of residential buildings with at least three units. As well, a steep hike in property tax proposed by a de Blasio commission has potential to cause mass property selloffs in central Brooklyn, but de Blasio recently promised not to increase property taxes in his last year in office.

    An update: “There has been tremendous outpouring of concern over a proposed bill being heard tomorrow with a suite of safety-related bills,” Robert Cornegy wrote on his Facebook page this afternoon. The purpose of the Wednesday hearing is to hear from all stakeholders and fine tune the bill, he continued. “I will not be voting for a bill that hurts homeowners or our affordable housing stock, especially in this climate!” he added.

    Another update: The outcry from homeowners has killed this proposed legislation. “This bill is finished as I promised we heard from all stakeholders at the hearing as I promised,” Councilman Robert Cornegy wrote in Bed Stuy Friends on Facebook in early December. “As the chair of Housing and Buildings I stated the bill had its day and it is determined by the chair (me) that the bill will not be moved to a vote. Thank you for your advocacy and vocal opposition.”

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