Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums
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Building & Neighborhood Issues

Publication Date: Autumn 1999

Two important city laws passed this year will require action by boards to protect building residents from fire and from lead paint hazards. As of this writing, the City has not yet promulgated authoritative regulations for implementing either of these laws. We offer brief summaries of your responsibilities below. As more specific information becomes available from the City, CNYC will alert its members and subscribers.

Effective November 12, 1999, New York City property owners, including cooperatives and condominiums, have increased responsibilities to inspect for the presence of lead paint hazards and to ensure their prompt correction in any apartment which is the home of a child six years old or younger.

Recognizing that lead poisoning from paint containing lead is a preventable childhood disease, the City of New York has worked to establish reasonable standards for detection of potential lead hazards and for ensuring that they are quickly corrected. Experience of recent years has made it clear that removal of intact lead-based paint may itself exacerbate potential lead hazards; thus, the City Council determined that the best way to prevent poisoning from paint containing lead is to ensure that such paint is maintained in good repair.

A hotly debated new law was passed by the City Council in June and signed into law by Mayor Giuliani on July 15th. It affects all multiple dwellings built prior to 1960. Its text is long and detailed; we present here a brief summary of those provisions applicable to housing co-operatives and condominiums.

Beginning in the year 2000, the owners of all multiple dwellings in New York City built prior to 1960 are required to send annual notices to all residents in January (or with their January rent bill), inquiring whether children six years old or younger live in the apartment. When a positive response is received, or when the owner is aware that a small child lives in a unit, the owner must have a visual inspection performed of all painted surfaces in that unit, to ascertain whether there is any chipped or peeling paint or deteriorated subsurfaces. If found, such conditions must be promptly corrected using prescribed methods that minimize the spread of dust. If a child six years old or younger comes to live in the apartment during the year, the apartment resident is required to alert the owner (this notification will also trigger a visual inspection).

Surfaces presumed to contain lead based paint cannot be dry scraped or dry sanded, but must be smoothed by wet scraping using a scraper and water misting to reduce dust. Protocols must be used to isolate the area being treated and to collect and remove all work debris and dispose of it properly.

And when apartments become vacant, the owner muse ensure that all painted surfaces are intact, that windows, doors and cabinets open and close smoothly so that painted surfaces do not bind, and that the floor is smooth so that it can be easily cleaned.


A provision added to this law at the insistence of CNYC confirms in Subsection 27-2056.8 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York that “nothing shall be construed to alter existing or future agreements which allocate responsibility for obligations under this article between a tenant shareholder and a co-operative corporation or between the owner of a condominium unit and the board of managers of such unit.” More simply stated, this acknowledges that shareholders and unit owners respectively are responsible for the maintenance of the interiors of their apartments in virtually all instances. Thus, once the cooperative corporation or the condominium association has distributed and received the notices and has had the units that are the homes of young children inspected. if conditions are found that require repair, then it is the shareholder or unit owner who is responsible for making these repairs. Boards will want to consult their own attorneys in setting policy for notifying shareholders and unit owners of conditions requiring repair and for record-keeping.

The City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the Department of Health (DOH) are jointly responsible for enforcement of this law. Proposed HPD regulations are being reviewed and will be promulgated prior to the law's taking effect. DOH is developing required pamphlets to explain lead paint issues and is developing training programs for performance of visual inspections and for doing “wipe tests” to determine that lead paint violations have been cleared. Both programs will be in place in time to have trained personnel perform these tasks as the law takes effect. As information about them becomes available, CNYC will post it on its Website at

For purposes of this law, lead based paint means any paint or other similar surface containing material containing more than 0.5 percent of metallic lead, based on the non-volatile content of the paint or other similar surface-coating material. The legislation proceeds on the premise that lead based paint was widely used prior to the outlawing of lead based paint in New York City in 1960, this type of paint was widely used. However, buildings built prior to 1960 can be exempted from the requirements of this law by undergoing recognized tests and being declared lead-free. Information on these tests can be obtained from the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

At CNYC's 19th annual Housing Conference on Sunday, November 14th, management expert Ben Kirschenbaum, Esq. will lead a seminar on Federal and City lead paint requirements for cooperatives and condominiums replete with the latest details available and with answers to your questions.

The Winter issue of the CNYC Newsletter reviewed the proceedings at hearings on fire safety conducted last January by the City Council. Testimony from fire officials helped the City Council focus on the best procedures to follow in the event of a high rise fire. Subsequently, the City Council passed a fire safety law. It requires that building owners, including cooperatives and condominiums, prepare and distribute to building occupants and service employees a fire safety plan tailored specifically to their buildings. Residents are expected to post copies of the plan inside the front door of their apartments.

At this writing, the fire commissioner has not yet promulgated rules for the preparation of these fire safety plans. Consequently, buildings which might be eager to develop and distribute a plan to protect residents are now hesitant to precede in the absence of the promised rules.

Other buildings have decided that safety is their key concern; they have consulted with their local fire stations or with private consultants and have developed general instructions for coping with a fire. Some have also developed an emergency list of the names and apartment numbers of building residents with special needs. Copies are kept at the door and in the Super's office ready to hand to the firefighters if they respond to a fire in the building.

At CNYC's 19th Annual Housing Conference on Sunday, November 14th, firefighter Jimmy Lanza, who is also president of the board of a large cooperative complex in Queens, will lead a discussion on fire safety, including an update on the status of the fire safety plan requirements.


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