Bushwick Leads in Smoke Detector Violations - Seeing Improvements in 2016

Originally posted on December 09, 2016 6:18 pm
Updated on December 20, 2016 1:00 pm

In light of the recent tragedy in Oakland and with a winter ahead of renters using space heaters to heat their apartments above the bare minimum required by NYC law, fire safety is as important as ever. Using NYC’s OpenData platform, we counted the number of violations issued to landlords for lack of or improper installation of a smoke detector using a subset of the 311 data.

Over 6,000 violations have been issued resulting from over 16,000 complaints to 311 since the data set begins in January 2010. Lack of smoke detectors was a contributing factor to the Oakland tragedy on December 2nd, and NYC law requires a minimum of one working smoke detector in all non owner-occupied (rented) dwellings, and it must be no further than 15 feet from the entrance to the primary bedroom.

The map below shows the average yearly number of violations issued in each neighborhood tabulation area (NTA) per ten thousand rental units, (calculated using the American Community Survey) as well as a breakdown of violations by year. Addresses receiving at least 5 violations since 2010 have been indicated.

 

The data shows that violations are disproportionately concentrated in less affluent areas, with Central Brooklyn and the Bronx suffering the worst of it. Manhattan below 125th and Queens seem to be the most fire safety-conscious.

Broken down by borough we saw that the Bronx has the most violations proportionate to the number of rental units, with Brooklyn being close behind. This points to one of two conclusions; landlords of apartments in these boroughs are less concerned with tenants’ safety, or the tenants here are more keen to take notice of and report it. Whatever the reason, it’s a bit concerning.

Borough Violations Rental Units Violations / 10,000 Units Yearly Violations / 10,000 Units
Bronx 2,020 388,014 52.06 7.53
Brooklyn 2,723 651,960 41.77 6.04
Manhattan 1,055 576,679 18.29 2.64
Staten Island 67 51,586 12.99 1.88
Queens 543 438,160 12.39 1.79

 
The 5 Neighborhoods with the most violations are all from Brooklyn and the Bronx. The good news is that most of them are on track to have their safest year yet. In the case of the leading violator, Bushwick North, there has been just about a quarter of the violations issued this year as was issued last year. That gives some sense of comfort, especially with the many parallels that can be drawn between Bushwick and Oakland. Many of New York’s artist collectives can be found in Bushwick, as well as large warehouses where underground music parties are thrown. Regardless, any number of violations is still reason for concern, as it only take one fire for a terrifying loss of life and property.

Neighborhood Borough 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Total Yearly Violations / Rental Units
Bushwick North Brooklyn 44 52 50 49 31 24 5 255 21.44
Erasmus Brooklyn 18 18 7 13 15 7 7 85 15.87
Fordham South Bronx 19 24 13 7 3 9 7 82 14.29
Stuyvesant Heights Brooklyn 30 39 29 35 15 15 11 174 13.30
East Concourse – Concourse Village Bronx 26 42 17 28 14 28 12 167 12.31

 
At the other extreme, we found that there were a few neighborhoods that have never received a complaint, such as Stuyvesant Town / Cooper Village in Manhattan; Maspeth, College Point, and a few others in Queens; Westerleigh and Great Kills in Staten Island; and Co-Op City in the Bronx. Most of these areas, except Stuy-Town, have relatively low proportions of renter-occupied units.

Going even more granular, we find there are a few addresses that have received significantly more violations than others. Remember that these are counts of violations only, so irritated tenants making multiple calls shouldn’t sway these numbers. If the Housing Preservation and Development department comes to inspect the area and finds the dwelling is in violation of the fire code, a violation will be issued, and incremental daily fees are added on until it is fixed. A new violation is generally not issued unless there is a separate incident.

  1. 2081 Madison Avenue, 10037 Manhattan – 12 Violations
  2. 1589 Ocean Avenue, 11230, Brooklyn – 11 Violations
  3. 2421 Webster Avenue, 10458, Bronx – 10 Violations
  4. 55 Winthrop Street, 11225, Brooklyn – 10 violations
  5. 3569 Dekalb Avenue, 10467, Bronx – 8 Violations

While these numbers of violations aren’t astronomical, and there’s a clear trend towards improving conditions, a fire is such a devastating thing, that even one is too many. A fire in one apartment has the potential to affect hundreds of tenants. While it is the responsibility of the landlord to ensure that a smoke alarm is installed when you move in, it is the tenant’s responsibility to contact their super when in need of replacement, or to contact 311 when their requests are being ignored.

Unfortunately ‘Smokey the Bear’ never made his rounds in urban areas, but I’m sure he would agree that only you can prevent apartment fires.

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