Court Upholds FDNY Citation for Nuisance Alarms on State Property

The New York Supreme Court for New York County has upheld a nuisance alarm citation imposed by FDNY on a business despite the fact the business was operating on state property.

Genting New York, LLC challenged the nuisance alarm citation as illegal claiming the city lacked the jurisdiction over businesses on state owned property. Genting subleased the property from The New York Racing Association, Inc. who in turn leased the property from the state.

According to the decision:

  • On September 12, 2016 at 5:00 P.M. and September 19, 2016 at 11:46 A.M., the New York City Fire Department responded to fire alarms at the subject premises.
  • On September 26, 2016, the FDNY issued petitioner a summons (NOV 012057637H) for its failure to prevent unnecessary and/or unwarranted alarms in violation of the Rules of the City of New York.
  • RCNY 907-01(c) states that it is unlawful to transmit two (2) or more unnecessary or unwarranted alarms in any three-month period.

Genting challenged the citation before the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH), who concluded the city had jurisdiction to issue the citation and penalty. Genting appealed in an Article 78 proceeding.

Supreme Court Judge Verna L. Saunders upheld the OATH decision finding it to be “reasonable, rational, and not contrary to law”. In Judge Saunder’s words:

  • The Rules pertaining to unwarranted and/or unnecessary alarms are straightforward.
  • Pursuant to 3 RCNY 907-01, petitioner was not issued a summons until after the second unwarranted alarm.
  • Moreover, the ECB’s decision to sustain the December 26, 2016 decision was not arbitrary and capricious as Hearing Officer Tomlinson’s decision was based upon petitioner’s undisputed violation of the law, public policy concerns, and precedent within the administrative forum.
  • In reaching a decision, the hearing officer relied upon the allegations made by the FDNY inspector and the appeal decision offered by FDNY which pointed out legitimate and substantial public safety concerns, as well as, the lack of any specific statutory authority which would exempt the petitioner and/or the subject premises from the regulations.
  • Ultimately, as the respondents indicate, there are no State firefighters and the cost and danger to public safety presented by unnecessary and/or unwarranted alarms is not lessened when the FDNY responds to a State-owned property.
  • Here, the danger is even more significant when a casino filled with thousands of people react to fire alarms and approaching firetrucks.
  • If the court was persuaded by petitioner’s argument, the City would be required to respond to all alarms, whether false or unwarranted, to ensure the safety of the public.
  • But, in the event of a false alarm, divest the City of jurisdiction and shield the petitioner from penalty despite the impact on public safety and the consumption of City time, money, and resources.
  • In the case of a fire alarm, the first responder to any property within the City of New York, whether state or city-owned, is the FDNY.
  • The Rules were created to protect those responders and the public-at large, including the ten million patrons who visit Resorts World Casino annually, and must be enforced.
  • Thus, the Environmental Control Board’s decision was rational and reasonable and not arbitrary or capricious.

Here is a copy of the decision:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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