Rep. Torres Brings Congressional Committee Hearing To The Bronx To Examine Fire Safety Improvements in Federally-Assisted Housing

Apr 20, 2022
Press
Public Safety

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, April 20th, 2022

Bronx, NY- Today, Rep. Ritchie Torres (NY-15) and the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development, and Insurance, chaired by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), convened in the Bronx to discuss improving fire safety in federally-assisted housing. The Subcommittee Hearing comes as a response to the apartment fire that broke out at the Twin Parks North West apartment complex on January 9th, 2022. 

The Twin Parks fire took the lives of 17 Bronx residents, 8 of whom were children, in what was New York City’s deadliest fire in three decades. The 19-story apartment building has 120 units, with the majority of tenants receiving some form of housing voucher or federal benefits. According to the New York Fire Department, the fire was caused by a malfunctioning space heater, and malfunctioning self-closing doors were deemed a key factor in the loss of life and significant building damage.

“The fire at Twin Parks devastated our community and the deaths of our peers and neighbors will long be mourned,” said Rep. Torres. “In light of this tragedy, we must take action to ensure that all federally-assisted housing units are in line with the regulations of long-standing fire legislation. Since January, I have been introducing legislation to prevent such a tragedy from ever repeating itself. As the House works to pass this legislation, it is crucial that we continue to have conversations about fire safety in the United States, with a special focus on protecting vulnerable populations who reside in federally-assisted housing.”

“Federal, state and local governments have an obligation to ensure the housing provided to American families is safe, sanitary, and up to sufficient standards. Yet, for far too long, elected officials at every level of government have failed to make the necessary investments, keep up with critical inspections, and enforce life-saving laws that could have prevented tragedies like the one at Twin Parks North West,” said Subcommittee Chair Rep. Cleaver. “Year after year, we’ve seen health and safety standards decline in federally assisted housing across the country. That’s unacceptable, and it’s time for Congress to take action to improve standards in America’s housing. We can start by passing legislation that includes the desperately needed housing provisions from the House-passed Build Back Better Act.”

The hearing additionally incorporated six witnesses, including community members, local elected officials, and housing officials. The list of witnesses included Alicka Ampry-Samuel, the Regional Administrator of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Adolfo Carrion, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and Vanessa L. Gibson, Bronx Borough President, among others.  

Since the January fire at Twin Parks, Rep. Torres has introduced several pieces of federal fire safety legislation to ensure such a tragedy does not happen again. These pieces of legislation include the “Empowering the US Fire Administration Act,” which passed in the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, the “Space Heater Act of 2022” which requires all space heaters to have an automatic shutoff, the “Twin Parks North West Fire Safety Act of 2022” which requires federally funded developments to have self-closing doors, and the “Housing Temperature Safety Act of 2022” which requires federally funded developments to have heat sensors. 

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