High danger on city roofs

Make sure any railing you peer over is steady.

Warmer weather is giving way to a season of sunny balconies and rooftop parties — but make sure that the city view doesn’t come with a nasty fall.

A vertical city can mean high-rise accidents, whether falls from rooftops and balconies or accidental fires sparked during a barbecue.

Anthony Albino, a builder with City Decks New York, told Metro he often sees roof decks that are not built nearly strong enough to hold someone getting a tan — much less dozens of people crowded together for a rooftop party. 

Weak beams can allow pockets of water that may mildew and decay the wood — leading to soft spots, he said.

“This poses a serious accident,” he said.

Many buildings, he said, have railings that are not tall enough — he advises 42 inches.

“We often encounter situations where the railing is smaller than this, and any person leaning on the railing can flip over,” he said.

In 2010, the Department of Buildings declared balconies in 16 buildings unsafe after a 24-year-old man fell to his death when a 24th-floor railing gave way.

At the time, inspectors said that 800 building owners had not filed inspection reports proving the safety of balconies and terraces in their buildings.

Two months later, a musician fell off a Chelsea balcony and impaled his head on a fence — in that incident, the man survived.

“There should be no leaning or sitting on railings in regards to a balcony,” FDNY spokesman Jim Long told Metro.

And Long said that falls are not the only concern.

An innocent barbecue can turn into a fire if it’s not controlled, he said. And the fire department has also responded to blazes started by people carelessly flicking cigarettes at a rooftop party.

A few years ago, a cigarette started a fire at a Chelsea building, he said.

“Someone put out a cigarette on the roof deck,” Long recalled. “It smoldered for a while, and it lit everything up.”

And make sure however you arrive at a high space is safe.

“We’ve had situations where people are on roofs and decide to get down an unsafe manner, climbing down a pole or a fire escape, and they slipped and fell,” Long said.

Warning signs

Albino listed these problem areas in roof decks:
Railings that are not high enough
Beams under the deck that are not structured well enough to support a deck, which can lead to decay and weak spots
Decks created with wood, which can decay or easily catch fire

High-altitude fails

1. In March 2010, Connor Donohue, 24, fell from his 24th-floor balcony  in Midtown after a railing gave way. Officials later ordered residents in 16 buildings to stop using balconies.

2. In May 2010, Nicholas Blossom, 21, fell from a  balcony in Chelsea, hitting his head on a fence as he fell. He survived.

3. In August 2010, Nicole John, 17, the daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Thailand, fell to her death from a Herald Square apartment’s 25th floor.

4. Hana Lin, 26, fell from a Warren Street balcony in March 2011, landing on a fifth-floor roof. She reportedly might have been trying to reach her cell phone, found next to her at the scene.


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