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The fire escapes of New York

Blog | By James Fletcher | Jun 10, 2020


Another classic New York sight is the metal fire escape. With rapid population growth in the late nineteenth century, and the need for secure exits in an emergency, landlords scrimped by opting for external solutions to maximise internal rental space. Their installation on new buildings was halted in 1968, meaning that many of these structures are 50-100 years old. They’ve become informal outdoor space for growing plants or storing a bike. While it is compulsory to have them inspected every five years, there are many stories of structural corrosion, especially on the ones made of iron - and it has led to serious injury. These days, the fire brigade would use mechanical ladders, which are much safer and far more efficient. As attractive as the fire escape is on my building, you wouldn’t catch me choosing to stand on it.