A History of Tenement House Legislation in New York 1852-1900 Part XII
 

By Lawrence Veiller
 
 

FIRE ESCAPES, REPAIR OF. — Although fire-escapes were required on buildings as early as I860, it was not until 1871 that any provision was enacted requiring fire-escapes to be kept in repair and painted so that rust would not destroy their usefulness. This law, enacted in 1871, requiring the owners to keep the escapes in good repair and properly painted, has been reenacted in every piece of legislation upon this subject and is practically the law at the present time.

(1871) — Chapter 625, Section 28.

"The owner or owners of any buildings upon which any fire escapes may now be or may hereafter be erected, shall keep the same in good order and repair, and well painted."

(1874) — Chapter 547, Section 7. —Continued.

(1882) — Chapter 410, Section 499. — Continued.

(1885) — Chapter 456, Section 28. — Continued.

(1887) — Chapter 566, Section 26. — Continued.

(1888) — Brooklyn — Chapter 583, Section 16. (Brooklyn Consol. Act.) — Continued.

(1892) — Chapter 275, Section 34. (Amends Section 498, Consol. Act.)

"The owner or owners of any building upon which a fire escape is erected shall keep the same in good repair and properly painted."

(1894) — Brooklyn — Chapter 481, Section 28. (Amends Brooklyn Consol. Act.) — Continued.

(1899) — The Building Code — (An ordinance adopted December 20, 1899. ) Section 103.

"The owner or owners of any building upon which a fire escape is erected shall keep the same in good repair and properly painted."

FIRE ESCAPES, ENCUMBRANCE OF. — Prior to 1871, there was no law prohibiting the encumbering of fire-escapes. In this year, however, a provision was enacted prohibiting any person from placing an encumbrance of any kind upon any fire-escape. No penalty, however, was provided for the violation of this statute, nor was the responsibility for its enforcement placed upon any special official. The law was reenacted in 1874, and again in 1882, but not until 1885 were the above defects remedied. In that year the provisions of the previous law were redacted, but an additional clause was passed placing the responsibility upon the occupants of tenement houses for any encumbrance of fire-escapes and placing the duty of enforcing the law upon firemen, policemen and members of the Building Department, who, upon finding any fire-escape balcony encumbered, were to notify the occupant to remove such encumbrances and to keep the balcony clear. Upon the failure of the occupant to do so, the officer charged with the enforcement of the law was directed to apply to the nearest police magistrate for a warrant for the arrest of the occupant of the premises, and upon proving that the fire-escape had been obstructed, the occupant was to be fined not more than $10 for each offence, or to be imprisoned for not more than ten days in the discretion of the court At the same time there was a further provision enacted requiring the manufacturer of fire-escapes to fasten to all new balconies a plate containing a notice to the effect that any person  placing any encumbrance on such balcony was liable to a penalty of $10 and to imprisonment for ten days. In 1887 this law was again enacted with slight changes, not affecting its substance.

In 1888 the Brooklyn building law was amended, and the provisions of the law of 1871 simply prohibiting the encumbrance of fire-escapes were reenacted, no provision being made for its enforcement In 1892 the New York building law was again changed, and the provisions of the acts of 1885 and 1887 were again reenacted with slight verbal changes, the responsibility being still placed upon the occupant of the premises, and the remedy still being arrest and a fine of $10. In 1894 a new law was passed for the city of Brooklyn ; this placed the responsibility for the obstruction of fire-escapes upon the owner of the building, requiring him to keep all fire-escapes free from obstructions. It also placed the responsibility upon the occupant as well as the owner, and reenacted the provisions of the New York law of 1892, making a violation of this section a misdemeanor, and the remedy the arrest of the offender and the imposing of a fine of not more than $25 for each offence, or imprisonment for ten days, in the discretion of the court. The Building Code, enacted in 1899, a local ordinance, continued the main provisions of the New York law of 1892 and the Brooklyn law of 1894, placing the responsibility upon the occupant of the premises, the enforcement of the law being lodged with the Fire and Police Departments and no longer with the Department of Buildings. The penalty for a violation of the law was still arrest and a fine of $10 or imprisonment for ten days.

(1871) — Chapter 625, Section 28.

"No person shall at any time place any encumbrance of any kind whatsoever upon any fire escapes now erected or that may hereafter be erected in said city."

(1874)— Chapter 547, Section 7. — Continued.

(1882) — Chapter 410, Section 499. — Continued.

(1885) — Chapter 456, Section 28. (Amends Section 499, ConsoL Act.)


Previous provisions continued with additional provision that the occupants of all dwelling houses, etc., to which outside fire-escapes are attached, shall keep the same clear and free of all encumbrances, and it shall be the duty of all firemen, policemen, and every officer of the bureau of inspection of buildings who shall discover any fire-escape, balcony or ladder of any fire-escape encumbered in any way, after a notice to remove (any encumbrance) and to keep the same clear shall be given, and a failure to comply (therewith, to) apply to the nearest police magistrate for a warrant to arrest the occupant or occupants of said premises of which the fire-escape forms a part, and the party shall be brought before said magistrate, and if the case of obstruction be proved, the parties whose duty it is to keep them free shall be fined not more than $10 for each offence, or may be imprisoned not to exceed ten days in the city prison, or both, in the discretion of said magistrate.

 In constructing all balcony fire-escapes, the manufacturer thereof shall securely fasten thereto, in a conspicuous place, a cast-iron plate having suitable raised letters on same to read as follows — " Notice !! Any person placing any encumbrance on this balcony is liable to a penalty of $10 and imprisonment for 10 days."

(1887) — Chapter 566, Section 26. (Amends Section 499, Consol. Act.)

"No person shall at any time place any encumbrance of any kind whatsoever before or upon any fire escape on any building in said city. It shall be the duty of all firemen, policemen and every officer of the bureau of inspection of buildings, who shall discover any fire escape, balcony or ladder of any fire escape encumbered in any way to forthwith verbally notify and require the occupant of the premises or apartment to which said fire escape, balcony or ladder is attached, or for whose use the same is provided, to remove such encumbrance and keep the same clear. If said notice shall not be complied with by the removal of such encumbrance, and keeping said fire escape, balcony, or ladder free from encumbrance then it shall be the duty of said policeman, fireman, or officer of the bureau of inspection of buildings to apply to the nearest police magistrate for a warrant for the arrest of the occupant or occupants of the premises or apartment of which the fire escape forms a part, and the said parties shall be brought before the said magistrate, as for a misdemeanor, and upon conviction the occupant or occupants of said premises or apartment shall be fined not more than ten dollars for each offense or may be imprisoned not to exceed ten days, or both in the discretion of the court."

(1888) —Brooklyn — Chapter 583, Section 16. (Brooklyn Consol. Act.) Provisions of Act of 1871 reenacted.

(1892) —Chapter 275, Section 34. (Amends Section 498, ConsoL Act.)

"No person shall at any time, place any encumbrance of any kind whatsoever before or upon any fire escape. It shall be the duty of every fireman and policeman who shall discover any fire escape, balcony or ladder of any fire escape encumbered in any way, to forthwith report the same to the commanding officer of his company or precinct, and such commanding officer shall forthwith cause the occupant of the premises or apartment to which said fire escape, balcony or ladder is attached, or for whose use the same is provided, to be notified, either verbally or in writing, to remove such encumbrance, and keep the same clear. If said notice shall not be complied with by the removal forthwith of such encumbrance, and keeping said fire escape, balcony or ladder free from encumbrance, then it shall be the duty of said commanding officer, to apply to the nearest police magistrate for a warrant for the arrest of the occupant or occupants of the said premises or apartment of which the fire escape forms a part, and the said parties shall be brought before the said magistrate, as for a misdemeanor; and, on conviction, the occupant or occupants of said premises or apartment shall be fined not more than $10 for each offense, or may be imprisoned not to exceed ten days, or both, in the discretion of the court. In constructing all balcony fire escapes, the manufacturer thereof shall securely fasten thereto, in a conspicuous place, a cast iron plate having suitable raised letters on the same, to road as follows: ' Notice ! Any Person Placing Any encumbrance On This Balcony Is Liable To A Penalty of $10 & Imprisonment for Ten Days.'"

(1894) —Brooklyn — Chapter 481, Section 28. (Amends Consol Act)

"The owner or owners of any building upon which a fire escape is erected shall keep the same free from obstructions. No person shall at any time place any encumbrances of any kind whatsoever before or upon any fire escape. It shall be the duty of every fireman and policeman who shall discover any fire escape balcony or ladder of any fire escape encumbered in any way, to forthwith report the same to the commanding officer of his company or precinct, and the occupant of the premises or apartment to which said fire escape balcony or ladder is attached, or for whose use the same is provided, shall be notified, either verbally or in writing, to remove such encumbrance and keep the same clear. If said notice shall not be complied with by the removal forthwith of such encumbrances, and keeping said fire escape balcony or ladder free from encumbrances, then it shall be the duty of said commanding officer to apply to the nearest police magistrate for a warrant for the arrest of the occupant or occupants of the said premises or apartment of which the fire escape forms a part, and the said parties shall be brought before the said magistrate as for a misdemeanor; and, on conviction the occupant or occupants of said premises or apartment shall be fined not more than twenty-five dollars for each offense, or may he imprisoned not to exceed ten days, or both, in the discretion of the court. In construction of all balcony fire escapes the manufacturer thereof shall securely fasten thereto in a conspicuous place, a cast iron plate, having suitable raised letters on the same to read as follows : ' Notice ! Any person placing encumbrances on this balcony is liable to a penalty of twenty-five dollars and imprisonment for ten days."

 

Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: A History of Tenement House Legislation in New York 1852-1900 Part XII
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina

Source:

BIBLIOGRAPHY: The Tenement House Problem; Including the Report of the New York State Tenement House Commission of 1900. By Various Writers; The MacMillan Company-New York 1903
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