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Sen. Gillibrand, Rep. Torres Propose Federal Heat Sensor Requirement In Wake Of Deadly Bronx High-Rise Fire

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New legislation is on the table more than a week after the deadly Bronx high-rise fire.

A device that measures temperatures in apartments would be required under the proposed law, CBS2's Lisa Rozner reported Monday.

Wi-Fi enabled heat sensors provide real-time monitoring of the temperature inside a unit. If it's colder than the legal limit, they can keep tabs on that, too.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Ritchie Torres say the devices are necessary to save lives and want them inside federally-funded buildings.

"Just like every apartment has a fire alarm and a smoke alarm, every apartment in New York City should have a heat sensor," Torres said. "The lack of heat and hot water causes tenants to resort to the use of these space heaters out of desperation."

Investigators said the fatal fire at Twin Parks North West started accidentally due to a malfunctioning space heater. Seventeen people, including eight children, died.

"I think it will save lives and make a difference. We also learned from the firefighters that an old building like this is grandfathered in and doesn't have sprinklers. That's unacceptable," Gillibrand said.

Torres, as a City Council Member, and then-Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams pushed the city to launch a heat sensor pilot program.

Twenty-six participating public housing buildings from June 2020-July 2021 saw a 56% decline in heat complaints and 66% had no heat violations at all, Torres said.

"The device was simple. It allowed us to use technology to register the heat complaints. We've met with the judges throughout the city to see that this data is useful," Adams said.

Fire science expert Glenn Corbett worries detection won't rectify the problem as long as the city keeps the minimum required temperature at 62 degrees at night and 68 degrees during the day.

"I think that's too low. I think it's reflective of the 1970s when we had the energy crisis," said Corbett, a professor at CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "If people feel cold, they're going to take the issue into their own hands and through whatever means, and that usually means getting a space heater."

The city told us any changes to temperature requirements would need to be passed by the City Council.

As for the heat sensor legislation, that's being introduced this week. Lawmakers expect it to move quickly.

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