‘We’re sitting ducks’: NYCHA tenants ask for smoke detectors in apartments


UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan (PIX11) — A fire caused by a space heater inside a NYCHA building has tenants asking NYCHA to place smoke detectors in the hallways. 

“I panicked,” said Cynthia Tibbs  “This is life or death now. I don’t know if I’m going to get out of here.”

Tibbs is not only a resident of the Urban Renewal Brownstones, she’s also the Tenant Association president. In her 30 years of living at the NYCHA property on the Upper West Side, she has never had anything as frightening happen as an incident this past Thursday.

“He was trying to remove mold off his walls … a combination of bleach, him attempting to dry the wall quicker with the space heater, it ignited and caught fire to his bed,” said Tibbs. 

She wasn’t aware fire had ignited in the apartment right below hers until flames shot up through the vent in her bathroom.

Tibbs said she doesn’t blame her neighbor and feels there’s an easy way for NYCHA to help tenants be better prepared. 

“We need more than a sprinkler system,” she said. “We are vulnerable. We are sitting ducks.”

While it’s the law to have carbon monoxide and smoke detectors inside each dwelling, which NYCHA has provided, Tibbs is now advocating for NYCHA to go beyond that and install detectors in the hallways as well.  

“If there were detectors in the stairwells they would’ve gone off sooner because the building was engulfed in smoke,” said Tibbs. 

Tibbs added if someone were to accidentally set the detectors off, say, by smoking, the tenant responsible should be fined. 

Both Tibbs and her neighbor, who she said is an 89-year-old war veteran, had to be rushed to the hospital for smoke inhalation. He also suffered burns to his hands and face.  

Tibbs hopes to meet with Community Board 7 and the FDNY next week to discuss if and where those detectors could be placed in the communal areas. The tenants would still need the OK from NYCHA.

“There needs to be a conversation on how we can make sure to be more proactive instead of reactive that’s my goal,” Tibbs said.

PIX11 News reached out to NYCHA to see if they would consider installing carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in the hallways.

They sent back a copy of the city laws along with this statement: 

“NYCHA follows NYC code requirements, which do not require smoke/carbon monoxide detectors to be placed in hallways.”

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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