Why Does This Architect Want To Take Fire Escapes Off These Landmarked Buildings?

June 9, 2015 | Liam Mathews

Last week the Department of Buildings approved architect Joseph Pell Lombardi’s plan to remove a fire escape from the front of 69 Greene Street, a landmarked building in Soho. DNAinfo reports that the DOB approved the plan despite opposition from residents and the FDNY. Lombardi also intends to remove a fire escape from 71 Greene Street, but that plan has not been approved.

According to DNAinfo, Lombardi insists that the fire escapes are not old enough to be considered historic and are unsafe. He says that the sprinkler system being installed is much more effective for fire safety.

Residents say that the removal of the fire escape will leave just one narrow, rickety, and “unreliable” wooden staircase as the only method of escape, which is unacceptable. A door to the fire escape has already been nailed shut, and some overhead sprinklers have been built over, according to residents, who also allege that these modifications were not permitted at the time they occurred.

Lombardi is adamant that his renovation will be safer than the fire escape, though.

“The actual proposal is that all occupants will have access to two internal fully sprinklered stairs enclosed in a fire rated enclosure with fire proof self closing doors and a fire balcony at the rear instead of one internal stair and a fire escape,” he wrote in an email to ANIMAL. He believes fire escapes are outdated and inefficient, and people only insist on them because that’s what they’re used to.

John Yacovone, an FDNY engineer, wrote in an April email to tenants “FDNY concurs with Community Board 2 and your concerns, and opposes the removal of the fire escapes in conjunction with present egress construction and this building’s current compliance with the NYC Administrative Code.”

(Image: Google Maps)