- Sunrise on Manhattan’s fire escapes
I woke up very early, thanks to jet lag. I was laying and waiting for at least a ray of light from my window. New York slept. Yes, it sleeps at 4-30 am, definitely. Then I found that our bed is right under the window with a fire escape. We tried to open it and voila, I was standing on those romantic stairs ever, just awaken still in my lingerie and with disheveled hairs. I felt I was inside of one of those Hollywood films just like Richard Gere or many other film heroes. That was so amazing!
Jolly well, we made a photo shooting there. The stairs like that is a symbol of Manhattan for me. We rented an apartment on Airbnb. It wasn’t neat by the way, but it was on Manhattan, it was in old building and it made me feel so Newyorky.
I found a piece of history about fire escapes in NYC. I was very excited to know.
The first law was enacted in 1860, requiring all tenement houses to have fire escapes. Then New York Labor – Title 3 – § 273, was enacted after the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in 1911 which killed 146 immigrant workers in a building now part of NYU. The law required that fire escapes on office and factory buildings built after October 1st, 1913 had to be made of wrought iron or steel with the ability to sustain a live load of 90 pounds per square foot or greater with an additional safety factor. Other requirements recommended a “continuous or straight run stairway” if possible, a balcony “firmly fastened” to the building on every floor with iron railings, and unobstructed opening to fire escape of a least 2 feet wide and 6 feet in height.
One thing you notice on street level is that last staircase, which is required by law to go “from the lowest balcony to a safe landing place bene
ath.” The staircase must either remain down permanently or arranged to swing up and down.
Ever wonder why some fire escapes are in fun colors? A later law, which affected fire escapes constructed after April 18, 1929 required every fire escape made of material that might rust “be painted with two or more coats of good paint in contrasting colors… Whenever a fire-escape becomes rusty, the owner shall repaint it with two additional coats of good paint.” The latest fire escape law also has a variation of this rule.
This picture is where we lived. Upper East Side 93th Street
The second law also had specifications about interior access and where fire escapes can be constructed in general, like in the photo below where fire escapes are permitted “in a court of a non-fireproof multiple dwelling to serve an apartment or suite of rooms which does not contain any room fronting upon a street or yard.” Additionally, it banned reuse of old materials or cast-iron in new construction.
The latest law appears to be 1 RCNY §15-10, available on NYC.gov, which goes through everything in great detail, down to what a “goose-neck ladder” is. But, the fire escape may not be long for the city. In April 2015, the FDNY spokesman Jim Long told the New York Post, “Those fire escapes are going the way of the dinosaur,” because fireproofing is seen as more effective.