The Real Deal New York

Trump lobbied against fire sprinkler regulations in the late ’90s

Following a pair of deadly fires, developers pushed back on regulations to retrofit existing buildings
April 09, 2018 09:30AM

Donald Trump and Trump Tower (Credit: Getty Images)

Following a pair of deadly apartment fires in the late 1990s, Donald Trump pushed back against a proposal requiring sprinklers in all buildings – a fact that’s gained renewed attention after a blaze broke out at Trump Tower over the weekend, killing one longtime resident.

In the aftermath of the two fires in 1998, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s administration considered whether sprinklers should be added to older buildings, or if they would only be required in new construction.

But Trump and other real estate developers argued that retrofitting older buildings would be too expensive, arguing that adding sprinklers would cost up to $4 per square foot, the Washington Post reported.

Trump personally “called a dozen council members to lobby against the sprinklers,” according to a January 1999 article in the New York Post. He also made a $5,000 donation to retire the campaign debt of then-Council Speaker Peter Vallone.

”People feel safer with sprinklers,” Trump told the New York Times in 1999. ”But the problem with the bill is that it doesn’t address the buildings that need sprinklers the most. If you look at the fire deaths in New York, almost all of them are in one- or two-family houses.”

When the City Council passed the new legislation in March 1999, it only required sprinklers in new residential buildings with four units or more. Existing structures – such as Trump Tower, which was built in 1983 – were only required to add sprinklers if they underwent renovations adding up to 50 percent or more of the property’s value.

Trump did announce, however, that he would spend $3 million to put sprinklers in all 350 units at Trump World Tower, which he was constructing across the street from the United Nations.

On Saturday evening, a blaze broke out on the 50th story of Trump Tower, killing 67-year-old resident Todd Brassner. New York City Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro said there are no fire sprinklers on the upper floors. Friends of the victim told the New York Times that Brassner had been trying to move out of the building since Trump was elected, but couldn’t sell his 50th floor apartment, which he believed was worth $2.5 million. [WaPo] – Rich Bockmann