TRENTON – Senator Ronald L. Rice, who co-sponsored the State’s first legislative attempt to require window guards in apartments where children reside, today said he asked the State Department of Community Affairs to conduct a “top to bottom safety inspection” of the apartment complex where a young Newark boy fell to his death from a 15th floor window early Thursday evening.
“I want the State to determine if the complex had window guards where they were supposed to have them and whether all rules affecting quality of life issues were being followed,” said Senator Rice, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Community and Urban Affairs.
“The window guards are supposed to prevent small children from falling out of windows all of the time, not just some of the time,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “A precious life was lost because the safety system did not function properly. I want to find out why so this kind of tragedy doesn’t happen again.”
Senator Rice said he and the late Senator Wynona Lipman, also D-Essex, sponsored the State’s first window guard bill in 1989 after a similar tragedy at an apartment complex. Senator Rice also voted for the first window guard law ultimately enacted in 1995 under the sponsorship of Senator Lipman and Senator Byron M. Baer, D-Bergen. The most recent death occurred at the privately owned Garden Spires complex where police said another boy fell to his death two years ago.
“I want the State investigators to determine if requested window guards at the (Garden Spires) complex were, in fact, installed,” Senator Rice said. “If the investigation determines that a stronger window guard requirement is needed, I will sponsor the legislation.”
Under the State law, tenants of multifamily dwellings who have young children age 10 or younger are authorized to have window guards installed by their landlords if they put the request in writing.
The window guards, for units above the first floors of multi-family complexes, are designed as safety devices, but are not supposed to block emergency exits by fire escapes and are supposed to be removable without the use of tools.
Senator Rice said he was assured by William M. Connolly, Director of Codes and Standards for the Department of Community Affairs, that the Garden Spires complex, located at 175-195 First Street, will be fully inspected to determine whether there are any safety code violations.
“I want them (the State inspectors) to determine whether there are any violations whatsoever at that complex from top to bottom,” said Senator Rice.
The Senator said he also would monitor the police investigation of the death to determine if there was negligence on the part of the apartment management.