Tower residents query FDNY about fire safety

By Peter A. Sutters Jr.

The shareholders association is a resident-run group that addresses concerns of those living at the Towers and acts independently of the management.Battalion Chief Larry Blieka spoke to the larger-than-usual audience of about 300 people and said the type of building North Shore Towers residents live in is considered to be one of the safest, although it still could be made more secure. He also told the residents there were things they could do to increase their safety in the event of another fire, such as keeping hallway doors closed at all times, keeping stairwells free from obstructions and reporting fires as soon as they start. Blieka said the fire that broke out at 271-10 Grand Central Parkway in December could have been contained with much less damage had the woman who started the fire called right away. He said she waited some 40 minutes before calling 911 to report the blaze. Nineteen firefighters and 15 residents were injured in the fire caused by the elderly woman, who apparently fell asleep while smoking in bed, according to fire officials. Blieka fielded many questions from residents that were unrelated to the Fire Department's jurisdiction and seemed to be aimed at the Towers' management. One resident asked why there are no smoke and heat detectors in the hallways of the buildings. Blieka said the building code at the time the building was constructed did not require detectors in the hallways, only in the apartments themselves.”Would they help?” asked the resident.”For your safety that would be an ideal situation,” replied Blieka. Calls place to the North Shore Towers management were not returned.Residents also questioned Blieka about reporting fire code violations and the slow response of the FDNY to investigate.Fred Hadley, a resident and publisher of an Internet newsletter for North Shore Towers tenants, said he had called the Fire Department about doors that had been propped open after the fire had occurred, yet they remained open for five days following the fire.Blieka said doors are often propped open after a fire to vent out smoke and fumes, but should not have been left open for that length of time. He said the claim should have been investigated by Battalion 251, which could have issued a violation. The Towers would then have had 16 days to fix any violations before a summons would be issued with possible fines to follow. Blieka gave the residents the number of Battalion 251 so they could report violations of any kind and said they would be investigated in a timely manner. Asked why fire hoses had been removed from stairwells in the Towers, Blieka said there was no fire code requiring that the hoses be installed and pointed out that the Fire Department used its own hoses because the ones in hallways are deteriorating since they are not properly maintained. At the meeting a petition was circulated that demanded the management of the building install many of the changes mentioned to Blieka , including detectors in the hallways, returning fire hoses to the hallways, and repairing the in-house intercom system . Reach reporter Peter A. Sutters Jr. by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 173.

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