Press Releases

For Immediate Release
November 18, 2014

Rachaele Raynoff - (212) 720-3471


Changes Based on Results of Post-9/11 Safety Study

Zoning Text Amendment Would Make Additional Emergency Stairwells Exempt from Zoned Floor Area

November 18, 2014 – Public review began for the Department of City Planning’s (DCP) proposed text amendment to the Zoning Resolution that would exempt space used for additional emergency stairwells from counting toward zoning floor area in new non-residential buildings with a minimum height of 420 feet. Last year, City Council adopted Local Law 141, adding additional exit stairway requirements to the NYC Building Code. Since current zoning regulations count stairwells as part of a building’s floor area, the new law will not take effect until the Zoning Resolution is amended.

City Planning Chairman Carl Weisbrod said, “It makes sense to align zoning with the NYC Building Code so that the regulations work together for the benefit and safety of both tenants and owner. The proposed zoning change would facilitate the new safety requirements under the building code so that they do not impose an undue financial burden in the development of new buildings.”

After 9/11, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) began to study how to make tall buildings safer. Since many of the victims of 9/11 were trapped by blocked stairwells, a major recommendation of the study was to increase the exit capacity of buildings with additional exit pathways to expedite future full-building evacuations. The International Building Code (IBC) adopted the NIST recommendations in 2009; City Council’s amendment to the NYC Building Code echoes the requirements of the IBC.

Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler, PE said, “This zoning text amendment is of absolute necessity for ensuring the safety of those that live, work and build in New York City. This change will allow our city to continue to grow safely while making construction easier and reducing building costs. I want to thank our partners at City Planning and FDNY for the many months of collaboration on this issue, and look forward to its successful passage.”

Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said, “The life-saving mission of the FDNY is accomplished by the brave work of our members, extensive fire prevention efforts, and by ensuring the safest building practices possible are used in our city. Increasing the width of emergency stairwells and creating additional means of egress are clear ways to improve the safety of not only all building occupants, but the safety of FDNY members who go into danger to save others as well.”

Passed on December 30th, 2013 by City Council, Local Law 141 presents building developers with three options:

  1. Provide an additional fire safety exit stairway beyond what is required for means of egress; or
  2. Increase required fire exit stairway widths by 25 percent and designate all elevators for “Occupant Self-Evacuation” with the building’s stand-by power capable of running some of them in the event of an emergency, based on an approved egress analysis; or
  3. Designate all elevators for “Occupant Self-Evacuation” with the building’s standby power capable of running all elevators simultaneously in the event of an emergency.

Adhering to either of the first two options qualifies a building for the floor area exemption proposed in this zoning text amendment. The third option does not require additional floor space.

The buildings code changes only apply to non-residential buildings and mixed-use buildings with non-residential uses above 420 feet; those affected will primarily be office buildings and hotels. Midtown, Lower Manhattan, Long Island City in Queens and Downtown Brooklyn are the neighborhoods most likely to be affected by this amendment.

The 11 community boards and the three affected Borough Presidents have 60 days to review the application, followed by review at the City Planning Commission and City Council.

View more details on the proposed zoning change.