City Council Votes on Demolition, Abatement Site Legislation

Brooklyn Daily Eagle - December 01, 2009

by Linda Collins

CITY HALL - The City Council yesterday passed the 12th and final piece of construction, demolition and abatement overhaul legislation.

This legislation will prohibit simultaneous demolition and asbestos abatement activities within the same building.

Demolition activities increase fire risk and asbestos containment structures may impede firefighters' access to areas of the building when this work is done simultaneously. Specifically, this bill prohibits concurrent demolition and asbestos abatement unless the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has made a site-specific determination, in consultation with the Department of Buildings (DOB) and the Fire Department (FDNY), that both demolition and abatement can be done safely. This law would take effect 180 days after enactment.

Today's bill is the last of 12 bills written in response to the tragic 2007 Deutsche Bank Fire that took the lives of two New York City firefighters. The investigation revealed multiple regulatory gaps that increased the likelihood of fire during construction, demolition, and asbestos abatement activities.

"Taken together, these 12 measures represent a significant overhaul of the City's demolition and asbestos abatement procedures," said Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "Working together with the administration and the construction industry, we will continue to raise the standard for construction safety across our ever-growing city in the most responsible and vigilant way possible."

"This law was generated from expert testimony at hearings of the Council's Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Committee, proving once again that the legislative branch of government has a role to play in making sure that livability and safety come first in the rebuilding of downtown," said Council Member Alan J. Gerson, sponsor of the bill. "In fact, the whole city gains from our experience."

The 11 earlier bills:

* Improve inter-agency coordination;

* Establish an asbestos abatement permit program and enhance safeguards;

* Incorporate a ban on smoking at construction and demolition sites into the code;

* Require the DEP to guide environmental contractors on how to maintain entrances/exits;

* Prohibit smoking on any floor of a building where asbestos abatement activities are taking place and prohibit the carrying of tobacco, matches and lighters;

* Require site safety managers to conduct daily checks of standpipes;

* Establish uniform color coding of standpipe and sprinkler systems;

* Require a master plumbing or master fire-suppression license and a permit to cut and cap standpipes or sprinklers during demolition projects;

* Improve permitting standards for demolition projects by requiring a registered design professional to submit a detailed plan for the demolition;

* Require the use of air-pressurized alarm systems for dry standpipes during construction or demolition; and

* Require new or altered sprinkler systems to undergo hydrostatic pressure testing by a licensed master plumber or licensed fire suppression piping contractor.