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Rockland County Leaders Unite for Fire Safety: Bipartisan Bills to Transform New York’s Fire Prevention and Building Codes

On Friday, Rockland County Executive Ed Day, Fire and Emergency Services Director Chris Kear, County Attorney Thomas Humbach, along with New York State Senators Bill Weber & Pete Harckham, and New York State Assembly Members Ken Zebrowski, John McGowan, Chris Eachus, and Karl Brabenec announced a bipartisan effort to bolster fire safety with a package of New York State bills.

Rockland County’s New York State lawmakers Friday underscored their commitment to work collaboratively to get several bills passed in Albany that prioritize fire safety in our communities.

County Executive Ed Day said, “We are all aware of the housing challenges this county faces. Challenges – which are decades in the making – and reaching a breaking point. One thing is clear… more needs to be done.  So since last summer my administration & I have been formally collaborating with our New York State lawmakers and their staffs to stand behind a package of fire safety bills that we believe can and will save lives.”

County Attorney Thomas Humbach said, “It has been a pleasure and an honor to be involved in drafting new State laws to protect the safety of first responders, tenants, and everyone else using the structures in Rockland County.  My contribution includes a mandate for minimum staffing of building departments, providing authority for all municipalities to establish administrative courts to assess civil penalties, creating a new criminal penalty that provides a strong deterrent against allowing properties to fall into massive disrepair, and assigning violations and fines to the property instead of the property owner so that fines cannot be avoided by the simple method of transferring the property to another. I look forward to each of these provisions being passed by the State Legislature which place the burdens of safety where they belong and ensures quick justice for violators.”

Fire and Emergency Services Director Chris Kear said, “It is a positive sign that these Fire Safety Bills are gaining the support that they deserve. Each one has a direct reflection on not only the fire service but emergency services as a whole. The protection of emergency service personnel and the community they serve is paramount. It’s wonderful having all parties on all levels come together and work towards a common goal.

James Hartwick, Commissioner with the Nyack Fire Department and Legislative Committee Head of the Rockland County Firefighters Association, said, “New York State prides itself in being number one in a lot of categories but we are now number one in the worst category possible. We are number on in the state for the number of fire deaths nationwide. A lot of this is promulgated by the lack of code enforcement.”

Kurt Mulligan, President of Rockland County Firefighters Association said, “Protecting the public and keeping firefighters safe takes a comprehensive, multifaceted approach. Support from our elected officials, regardless of their level in government, with legislation and planning is vital to public safety.”

Stu Rhymer Vice Chair of Fire Advisory Board said, “What my colleagues have said before I don’t have to repeat but I’m looking forward to working across the aisle with our lawmakers.”

Senator Bill Weber said, “Fire safety is a top issue in our county, and we are committed to working together to address the issue. This package of bipartisan legislation is part of our ongoing effort to ensure the safety of Rockland County residents and first responders. We owe them nothing less and I am happy to be a part of this countywide effort and this countywide team.”

Senator Pete Harckham said, “These crucial bills are about the safety of both tenants and first responders. It is important that we ensure that the agencies that administer fire safety regulations are properly staffed by qualified professionals, who do the work of inspecting structures and issuing building permits. These organizations need adequate staffing levels to enforce the laws that are designed to protect New Yorkers. Enforcement of the law is so important to help prevent serious injury or loss of life in building fires.”

Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski said, “In Rockland County and across the state, residential fires continue to have a serious impact on the lives of New Yorkers. In the Assembly, I have worked with my colleagues on legislation to take on this issue. This package of bills will ensure that governments have the powers and resources they need to take on bad actors, ensure buildings are safe for residents, and prevent future fires.”

Assemblyman John W. McGowan said, “I am proud to join this bipartisan coalition of my state and local government colleagues to prioritize fire safety. The safety of our residents, firefighters, and all first responders is paramount. This legislative package enacts critical reforms such as increasing consequences for reckless actions and endangerment, bolstering state resources for fire departments and local municipalities, and enhancing protections for our first responder community. These initiatives send a resolute message of support for fire safety in addition to fostering a culture of compliance, accountability, and protection. I look forward to ongoing collaboration with my state government colleagues to advance this crucial legislation in the Legislature and cooperation with my local government partners to implement these reforms.”

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec said, “The equal distribution of fire safety materials across the state is of the upmost importance, and I am proud to emphatically voice my support for this package. Nearly all New York State firefighter departments are staffed by volunteers exclusively, and they perform valiant work for their communities. It behooves us all to continue supporting them as they continue to serve us.”

Assemblyman Chris Eachus said, “Since taking office, I’ve met regularly with my fellow Rockland legislators to discuss fire safety issues that are affecting all of our constituents. I’m proud to join them once more to introduce this package of bipartisan bills aimed at ensuring that our residents are kept safe and that our local governments have the tools to go after repeat violators. This is our government working at its best, with members from across the aisle coming together to fight for common sense legislation that will save lives. I’m thankful that we are working to address this critical issue and look forward to advancing this legislation in Albany.”

The bills are:

  1. A4430  / S2986 State assistance to local governments for the enforcement of fire prevention and building codes using monies paid into the code enforcement account.
  2. A2776 / S3458 Establishes the crimes of reckless endangerment of an emergency service person in the first and second degrees (Felony).
  3. A3097 / S.4713  Authorizes municipalities in the county of Rockland to add unpaid housing code violation penalties, costs and fines to such municipalities’ annual tax levy.
  4.  A5991S5436 Increases benefits for volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance workers.
  5.  A6290 / S4560 Enhanced 911 – Communication enhancements by increasing state grant and reimbursements to $100 million for development, consolidation, or operation of public safety communications systems.
  6.  A5618 / S3354 Bill that if Secretary of State is notified that a municipality is not providing administration & enforcement of the Uniform Fire Prevention & Building Code that complies with minimum standards the SOS may investigate & conduct hearings into alleged failure of local code enforcement. Essentially codifies what SOS did in Spring Valley.
  7.  A8616 / S8598 Minimum staffing levels for agencies enforcing the minimum standards under the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code Act.
  8.  A9256 Civil Penalties resulting from a violation related to the condition or use of real property may be applied against another property in rem.
  9. Aggravated Offenses Property owner can be charged with a Class D Felony if a person suffers serious physical injury as a result of a violation of a provision of the uniform fire prevention and building code.
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