Fire escapes are an intrinsic part of New York architecture. They’ve become iconic and they show up prominently in photography, movies, TV shows and other mediums.
It’s important to remember that they were originally mandated due to serious fires that trapped residents and workers in their buildings. These tragedies led to a revamping of the law, setting out safety standards to save lives.
As such, the law expressly forbids blocking a fire escape. It’s dangerous for people living in the apartment and anyone living above. It could cost time and lives if there is a fire.
It’s also common. People park their bikes on the fire escape. They plant gardens. They set up grills. They put out tables and chairs. They put in air conditioning units that jut out over the platform.
It’s so common that you may be tempted to think nothing of it. Maybe your landlord put in an AC unit that takes up most of the space and then used the rest to store personal items. There’s not a lot of space in New York, and you just figured he or she had no choice. You never go out there and the building is 100 yards old — and it hasn’t caught on fire yet — so you never worry about it.
You should. It’s a clear violation of safety laws and it could directly lead to injury or even death in an emergency. Your landlord has an obligation to provide you with a safe place to live, and it’s not being met. You must know your legal rights if you or a loved one are injured as a result.
Source: NY Habitat, “5 Things to Know About Fire Escapes When Renting an Apartment in NYC,” accessed Nov. 08, 2017