Following back-to-back fatal fires in 1998 at two New York City buildings that lacked working sprinklers, public officials advocated for new regulations requiring sprinklers in all buildings. Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s administration that year pushed for legislation to address the lack of sprinklers in high-rise towers. But real estate developers, including President Donald Trump, fought against the proposals, citing the high expense of retrofitting existing buildings with them, as the Washington Post reported.
After fierce lobbying from developers, including Trump who personally called a dozen council members, the city enacted a law in 1999 that would require sprinklers in new construction but not existing buildings, exempting the president’s Trump Tower. On Saturday, a fire ripped through a 50th-floor apartment at Trump Tower, killing a 67-year-old art dealer. Sprinklers were never installed at the Fifth Avenue property.
Developers pushed back against the sprinkler proposal because it would cost an estimated $4 per square foot to add sprinklers to existing structures. According to a New York Post article from January 1999, Trump “called a dozen council members to lobby against sprinklers” himself.
“People feel safer with sprinklers,” Trump told the New York Times that same year. “But the problem with the bill is that it doesn’t address the buildings that need sprinklers the most. If you look at the fire deaths in New York, almost all of them are in one- or two-family houses.”
His opposition, along with other real estate heads at the time, was able to influence the final bill passed by the city. All new residential towers with four or more units in each apartment were required to have sprinklers, as well as existing buildings that underwent renovations of 50 percent or more of the building’s value. Older buildings, including the 1983-built Trump Tower, did not have to install them.
While Trump later announced a $3 million plan to put sprinklers in all 350 units at the Trump World Tower, a 72-floor building across from the United Nations, the residences on the upper floors of Trump Tower never had sprinklers installed. After Saturday’s fire, Trump tweeted about his “well built building.”
Fire at Trump Tower is out. Very confined (well built building). Firemen (and women) did a great job. THANK YOU!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 7, 2018
[Via Washington Post]
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