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Allentown City Council seeks to require window safety guards in some rental units after fatal fall of kindergartener

In the wake of a kindergartener’s fatal fall from an apartment building window, Allentown City Council is proposing new regulations to prevent future tragedies.The bill would require landlords of rental buildings with three or more units to install window safety guards in units where a child 10 years or younger lives or spends a “considerable amount of time.”It would also require landlords to install window guards in any unit if the tenant makes the request in writing.The city Community and Economic Development Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to advance the bill to council for a final vote next week.Councilwoman Cynthia Mota proposed the bill after 5-year-old Ahnelly Grace Rivera in March fell to her death from a fourth-floor apartment in the Livingston Building at 1411 W. Hamilton St.“We have to put something in place for the safety of our children,” Mota said Wednesday. “No more death. If this can prevent death, why not do it?”Allentown fall victim described as ‘delightful young girl’Per the bill, window guards could not be permanently fixed to the building and must be easily removable in an emergency for the sake of occupants and firefighters.William Harvey, director of the Bureau of Building Standards and Safety, assured council that the version of window guard the bill requires will not impede firefighters.Harvey said the proposed bill doesn’t include any stipulations related to building floor height because of numerous reports about young children being seriously injured even falling out of a first-floor window.Leonard Lightner, director of community and economic development, said the bill’s “considerable amount of time” clause is meant to address situations in which grandparents or other caregivers have children in their rental units at least a few hours a day.Council President Roger MacLean wondered why the bill is limited to buildings with at least three units. He noted that many units in twins include multiple floors.Allentown’s bill is based off a similar law in New York City passed in 1976 and a law the state of New Jersey passed in 2006.According to a 2018 study published in the journal Injury Prevention, New York City’s window guard rule has led to a significant reduction in child falls and deaths. There were nine child window falls reported in 2016 in the city, compared to 217 in 1976. Window fall deaths decreased to two from 24.New York also requires rental leases to detail landlords’ obligations to install guards for tenants, and holds landlords legally liable if a child falls from an unguarded window.Allentown officials said compliant window guards cost up to $61. The city would pursue a $25,000 grant through the Highmark Foundation enabling the city to reimburse more punctual landlords who install window guards shortly after the bill passes.Ahnelly’s death in March came less than four years after a similar tragedy.In June 2015, 3-year-old Tamara Arnette and 5-year-old Tiana Arnette fell 42 feet from another fourth-story apartment at 702 W. Turner St. Tamara died, and Tiana sustained numerous serious injuries.FOUR YEARS AGO: Focus turns to window safety after children fallShortly after the incident, building owner Valley Housing Development Corp., installed steel window gates on the more than 200 apartment units in 15 buildings that it and the Lehigh County Housing Authority own across the Lehigh Valley.In other business Wednesday, council’s Budget and Finance Committee discussed two proposed charter amendments related to the budget process.Committee members debated whether the mayor should deliver a proposed balanced budget two weeks or a month earlier than the Nov. 1 deadline.They also reviewed an amended proposal to prevent default tax hikes pitched by a mayor absent a super-majority approval of a council budget.The revised proposal would give council an extra two weeks, or until Dec. 31, to pass a budget. It would also require only four votes to adopt a budget instead of the five votes the city’s charter requires.Councilman Courtney Robinson sought to add another amendment ensuring city employees get back pay in the event of a budget impasse.Morning Call reporter Andrew Wagaman can be reached at 610-820-6764 or awagaman@mcall.com
Source: Morningcall

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