By Joshua Burd
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has unveiled legislation to strengthen inspection requirements for high-rise buildings in the city, citing the recent deadly collapse of a condo tower in South Florida and the concerns of residents in his own municipality.
Slated to be introduced at the July 14 city council meeting, the measure would require façade inspections at least every five years and structural inspections at least every 10 years, according to a news release. The proposal applies mostly to buildings of at least six stories.
Fulop said the legislation, which he announced on Wednesday, comes in direct response to the collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South building in Surfside, Florida. The death toll from the disaster had climbed to more than 50 by late Wednesday, while authorities officially shifted the operation from search and rescue to recovery, even as some 86 people were still unaccounted for.
The collapse has been followed by reports of deferred maintenance, mismanagement and other warning signs at the 40-year-old structure.
“Following the tragic collapse of the Champlain Tower in Surfside, Florida, we’ve been re-examining the local policies that exist in both Jersey City and New Jersey to protect our residents that live in older high-rise structures, as we certainly have the most in the state,” Fulop said. “Since the sad news from Florida, we’ve had Jersey City residents in several buildings reach out with the knowledge that their condo boards are delaying work because of the potential cost to residents. There aren’t many policies in the state to protect in this area, so we’ll be introducing some locally at the next city council meeting.”
According to Fulop, the legislation would amend Jersey City’s property maintenance codes for all residential and nonresidential owners and managers to ensure their buildings are adequately maintained and structurally sound. He described the changes as follows:
Structural inspections: All concrete residential and commercial buildings above six stories must undergo a visual structural inspection by a licensed third-party engineer at least every 10 years. The inspection must include but not be limited to structural foundations, balconies, any appurtenant structures, all structural members and waterproofing conditions. A licensed architect or engineer must subsequently prepare a structural report and provide it to the city’s construction code office.
Façade inspections: Owners of buildings above six stories or with masonry façades of at least four stories must have exterior walls and appurtenances inspected every five years. Additionally, a technical façade report must be submitted to the construction code office.
Failure to comply with the requirements would subject the building owners to fines and penalties.
“Jersey City has the most high-rise buildings than any other municipality in New Jersey, with various building structures and ages, and so our goal is to strengthen our policies in order to provide the best protection for our residents and the community at large,” Fulop said.