Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop — in direct response to the building collapse in Florida and from complaints from Jersey City residents — announced new legislation Wednesday that would increase safety requirements for structural and façade inspections of all Jersey City high-rise buildings to better protect residents.
The legislation comes nearly two weeks after the condo building collapse in Surfside, Florida, that likely killed as many as 140 people two weeks ago. More so, Fulop said it comes in response to numerous city residents who he said reached out to his office, saying condo boards in their Jersey City buildings are delaying necessary work due to cost concerns.
Fulop, in a release, did not mention the name of any specific building.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Gov. Phil Murphy, during his COVID-19 briefing Wednesday, praised Fulop — and praised the state’s building codes, but said the state should reassess everything in wake of the collapse.
“We have among the strongest building codes of any American state,” he said. “Having said that, as you can imagine, we are revisiting code, regularity of inspections, etc. As we should.
“This is a horrible, horrible wakeup call.”
The new legislation amends Jersey City’s Property Maintenance Codes to strengthen the requirements set forth for all residential and non-residential building owners and managers to ensure buildings are adequately maintained and structurally sound.
The enhanced mandates will require ongoing inspections at a minimum of every five years for façade inspections and every 10 years for structural inspections, the mayor said.
The new legislation will go before Jersey City’s municipal council at the next meeting, scheduled for July 14.
The amendments address both interior and exterior safety requirements, as follows:
- Structural inspections: All concrete residential and commercial buildings above six stories must perform a visual structural inspection by a licensed third-party engineer at least every 10 years. The inspection shall 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 Division of Construction Code Official.
- Façade inspections: Owners of buildings above six stories or with masonry facades of four stories or more must have exterior walls and appurtenances inspected every five years. Additionally, a technical façade report must be submitted to the Division of the Construction Code.
Failure to comply with these requirements will 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.
It’s difficult to find rankings for states on building codes, but New Jersey was recently ranked one of the top states on the East Coast when it comes to insurance safety ratings of building codes.
According to the 2021 edition of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety report, Rating the States, New Jersey was fourth among states along the coastline from Texas to Maine. The report, which is released every three years, evaluates building codes and the administration of code provisions.
Florida, Virginia and South Carolina ranked above New Jersey.