Mayor Bloomberg Seeks to Redo Building Code in Sandy's Wake
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Thursday, June 13, 2013, proposed major changes to New York City's building code, saying Hurricane Sandy showed that both commercial and residential properties needed additional safeguards against severe weather.
Mr. Bloomberg unveiled the work of a task force at a news conference held in Long Island City, Queens. Once this plan is put into place, this would make the city a leader in the national effort to overhaul codes so that buildings would be more resilient to natural disasters. He and the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, set up the task force after the October hurricane, which did billions of dollars in damage. In his last few months as Mayor of New York City, he released a $20 billion plan for infrastructure along the city's 520 miles of coast, including a network of flood walls, levees and bulkheads.
The costs of the new regulations are expected to vary widely but could reach into the millions of dollars for buildings like hospitals.
For now, at least, the city will not require extensive improvements to existing commercial and residential properties. Officials emphasized that the new rules would largely effect new construction and sizable renovations on existing buildings. Revisions to the buildings codes would have to be approved by the Council. Ms. Quinn, who has made the code changes a priority, said legislation was already being drafted to adopt the recommendations of the task force. She said, "We plan to move as quickly as possible."
Emergency lights will be required in hallways and stairwells in case of extended blackouts. Existing buildings will have to add faucets to a common area on lower floors, like a laundry room. That is intended to allow people on upper floors, which lose water pressure from electric pumps during blackouts, to obtain water. Hospital and other important facilities in high wind zones have to improve protection for windows. Addressing a concern of poor communities on the industrial waterfront, the task force wants businesses that store toxic chemicals to place them in flood proof areas.
The task force is not proposing new rules for existing single-family homes. Owners of single family homes who undertake renovations would face new requirements. The code calls for relocating vulnerable equipment such as boilers and electrical panels to higher ground, preventing sewage back flow, planting wind and water resistant trees and plants, requiring heavy pavers on rooftops to avoid wind damage. They would have to use longer screws and nail fasteners when replacing windows and doors so that they resist high winds. For a new sloped roof, homeowners would have to buy reflective shingles that expand so that they conserve energy during heat waves.
They do not say how long this is going to take to become in affect, but they are working very hard to get it passed.