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

Photo by Susan De Vries

by Cate Corcoran

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 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 the 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.

This first appeared on Brownstoner.com

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