Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressman Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Mayor Eric Adams, and elected officials from the Bronx Fire Safety Task Force visited the site of the Twin Parks North West fire tragedy in the Bronx to meet with volunteers and community leaders, and announce their intent to spearhead new federal legislation to hold federally funded or regulated multi-family housing developments accountable for heating violations. In light of the recent fire tragedy caused by a space heater that took the lives of 17 New Yorkers, including 8 children, Senator Gillibrand announced that she will work with Rep. Torres and lead the Senate bill that will require the installation of heat sensors in certain federally funded buildings so that federal, state, and local housing administrators can assess heat levels in real time, prevent future fire tragedies, and improve fire safety and housing quality. This legislative effort received the early support of Mayor Adams, who co-authored a similar City law as Brooklyn borough president with then-Council Member Torres. Senator Gillibrand distributed 1,000 masks and 1,000 take-home COVID tests for the community during the visit.
“We cannot let a tragedy like this happen in our communities ever again. My heart is with the Twin Parks North West community and the families and friends who lost a loved one in the fire,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This is a matter of grave urgency, and I’m proud to be working with Congressman Torres to introduce a bill that will ensure buildings are in compliance with all heating requirements during cold-weather months to prevent future tragedies. I will work with my Senate colleagues to see this effort through and my office remains available to help family members who are trying to come to America for the memorials with visas. While we can’t change the events of the past, we will do everything in our power as your leaders to prevent these tragic events from ever occurring in the future.”
“It is no accident that the four worst fires in New York City’s history in the last thirty years have all been in the Bronx. The tragedy at Twin Parks North West only underscores that we must take federal action to ensure tenants have safe and affordable homes no matter their zip code. Currently what the law requires often falls short of what tenants need to remain warm in their homes. The feeling of freezing in apartments causes tenants to resort to space heaters out of sheer desperation. The introduction of federal legislation to require heat sensors in federally funded buildings will improve standards of living, especially in places like the Bronx where we see the effects of an aging housing market. I am proud to partner with Senator Gillibrand on this bill and we will continue to honor the lives lost by taking immediate action to prevent another fire tragedy,” said Rep. Ritchie Torres.
“It is unacceptable for any New Yorker to be left out in the cold when they’re in their own home,” said Mayor Eric Adams. “We have seen the tragic consequences of abusive landlords turning off the heat — that’s why I have spent years fighting to protect tenants from heating-related harassment and to hold bad-acting landlords accountable, including pushing locally for the deployment of heat sensor technology. I’m proud to support Senator Gillibrand and Representative Torres’ legislative effort in Congress to take on this unacceptable form of tenant harassment.”
“Bronx residents just like every other New Yorker has a fundamental right to feel safe and secure in their home.” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “In the wake of this horrific 5-alarm fire at Twin Parks North West, all levels of government came together to create comprehensive plans, and legislation so this terrible tragedy could never happen again. Today’s breakdown of the newly proposed federal legislation to require the installation of heat sensors is a necessary step towards providing every tenant basic rights, regardless of their race, gender, zip code, religion or immigration status. I want to thank Senator Gillibrand, Congressman Torres and the entire Fire Safety Task Force for their work on this. When the cameras leave, our community still needs us, and we are taking action now.”
“The devastating fire in the Bronx was an unimaginable tragedy. We must take every step to ensure it never happens again. I applaud Congressman Torres and Senator Gillibrand for their leadership and working to make heat sensor technology more accessible to the vulnerable tenants in my district. These devices will allow residents to track and record internal building temperatures throughout the day, empowering them to hold landlords accountable for failing to provide adequate heating. This greater accountability will, in turn, prevent the need for hazardous personal heating equipment like the space heater that contributed to this recent tragedy,” said Council Member Oswald Feliz.
“Yesterday, Bronx neighbors were publicly laid to rest after a tragic fire in Twin Parks Northwest took 17 neighbors too soon. If those families had not lived in the Bronx, in a building with insufficient heating that necessitated the use for space heaters, they could still be here with us today. I am proud to support Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Ritchie Torres for swiftly moving to propose legislation at the federal level that would mandate heat sensors in federally funded or regulated multi-family housing developments. Piloted in New York City via Local Law 18 of 2020, we are already seeing that heat sensing technology can ensure greater compliance with heating requirements, and thus greater safety for tenants. Requiring heat sensors in federally funded or regulated multi-family housing developments will ensure families have a right to safety and warmth in their homes,” said District 14 NYC Council Member Pierina Sanchez.
“Our community is still mourning and reeling at the aftermath of the devastating fire that took place last Sunday. This is a tragedy that did not need to happen. The conditions that lead to the fire were created by years of neglect by a landlord and the general disregard for the people who lived there,“ said Salim Drammeh, President of the Gambian Youth Organization.
The proposed legislation would create a federal law requiring the installation of heat sensors in certain federally funded housing. This would enable the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and state and local housing administrators to receive real-time reports that flag when the level of heating in a unit is out of compliance with the Housing Quality Standards heat requirements. This bill will be based on a city-wide bill Torres led when he was a member of the City Council, which requires the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development to install heat sensors in the 50 residences with the most heat and hot water violations. It also required inspections at these residences every 2 weeks.