Council Votes to Phase Out Roll-Down Security Gates

NY Times - December 01, 2009


Citing high rates of graffiti, the City Council voted on Monday to gradually ban the use of roll-down metal security gates, a move that would eliminate what has been an enduring if forbidding feature of the urban streetscape.

Other kinds of security gates, like rolling or sliding grilles, which allow passers-by to look into store windows and are seen by some as being harder to vandalize, would still be permitted.

The Bloomberg administration supported the legislation, which was championed primarily by Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., the chairman of the Public Safety Committee, only after the Council agreed to a long grace period. Not until 2026 will the roll-down metal gates be entirely banned.

The bill, which passed 45-0 with one abstention, applies to two categories of structures under the city's building code: one that includes banks, beauty salons and copy shops, and one that encompasses retail stores, drug stores and department stores.

The bill would require that after July 1, 2011, any roll-down gate that is being replaced must be replaced with a gate that allows at least 70 percent of the covered area to be visible. By July 1, 2026, all of the businesses covered by the legislation must have the new higher-visibility gates installed.

"We wanted to give a reasonable phase-in period to small businesses," said Jeffrey Haberman, a lawyer who works on drafting legislation for the Council. He said the typical gate lasts from 10 to 15 years, which means most businesses that now have roll-down gates will have them replaced in any case by 2026.

Mr. Vallone, a Queens Democrat, said that opaque metal gates are unattractive and easily vandalized. He also noted that many police officers and firefighters considered the gates that allow partial visibility to be preferable from a safety perspective.

"This bill not only helps first responders when they are called to protect our businesses, but it carries the additional benefit of beautifying our city's landscape," Mr. Vallone said in a statement. The legislation, which would take effect Jan. 1, directs the Buildings Department to develop a program to alert affected businesses, development corporations, chambers of commerce, and community boards of the new rules. A violation would carry a penalty of $250 for a first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.

Between 2011 and 2026, any business cited for having the incorrect gates will not have to pay fines if the violation is corrected within 90 days or if the owner can prove the gate was installed before 2011. After 2026, businesses can avoid fines if they replace the roll-down gate within 90 days.