The Importance of Fire Safety: Many Fires Can Be Prevented With Vigilance and Care

By Thomas Usztoke, Vice President of Douglas Elliman Property Management.

Each year, throughout New York City, property managers distribute fire safety information to their apartment residents in compliance with Local Law 10 of 1999. The mailing contains building specific details and basic instructions on fire emergencies in your building.  While it is the job of New York City’s Bravest to “put the blue stuff on the red stuff,” there are a number of pointers New York apartment dwellers should commit to memory.

The breadth of New York City’s properties involves multiple types of construction. A key distinguisher is whether the building materials are combustible or non-combustible. The difference is critically important in determining if residents should evacuate immediately or remain in their apartments while firefighters do their job. In most cases, residents are advised to shelter in place in non-combustible buildings, as long as they are out of imminent harm, but at all times the instructions of the FDNY are to be followed.

Common Causes of Fire

The three most common causes of fire are oil or grease fires that start in the kitchen, overloaded electrical circuitry, and the open flame of a candle or the embers of a cigarette. Most of these fire dangers are easily avoidable if certain precautions are implemented, as outlined below.

Kitchen Fires: Kitchen fires, most typically caused by oil or grease in or on top of the oven, usually start when someone wanders off or gets distracted while cooking. Forgetting that you’ve got something on the stovetop or in the oven is a sure way to ruin more than just dinner. Every kitchen should have a portable fire extinguisher handy. All members of the household should be well versed in pulling it off its bracket, aiming at the fire and pulling the trigger. Become familiar enough with its operation that its use is an instinctual response. Doing so can save you more than just your kitchen. And don’t underestimate the value of setting a kitchen timer when cooking.

Overloaded Electrical Circuitry: If you are repeatedly tripping a circuit breaker, it’s overloaded. Heaters, clothes dryers and other appliances all draw a lot of electricity and are liable to overload a system if piled on with the use of multiple extension cords or power strips. No electrical power supply cord or wall outlet should be HOT to the touch. If you have any doubts about the safety of your electrical outlets or wiring, contact your manager, super or handyman.

Open Flames and Cigarettes: The open flame of a candle or the smoking ember of a cigar or cigarette are common causes of house fires. Not infrequently, residents fall asleep while smoking, allowing embers to drop to the carpet or the bed, and ignite. A forgotten candle that shrinks down to its base can superheat the surface it rests on, starting a smoldering fire that can lead to a blaze. A burning ember in a mattress can remain incubating for hours before igniting into a king size room-filling inferno. Be extremely vigilant with any open flame, whether it be the stove, candle, cigarette or cigar.

Protect Yourself, Your Home, Your Family

The two easiest forms of fire prevention are knowledge and a working set of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, both of which are regularly tested to ensure they are in working order. Check detectors monthly and replace their batteries at least twice a year. Many people routinely replace their detector batteries when changing to and from Daylight Savings Time, an easy semi-annual date to remember.

Should a fire occur in your apartment, call 911, call the lobby staff if available, leave the apartment immediately, and close (do not lock) all doors while exiting. New York City is fortunate to have quick Fire Department response times, which can often contain the fire to a room, or at least the apartment of its occurrence, limiting the amount of damage to the building as a whole. The FDNY’s water source is street-side hydrants and/or in buildings over six stories, the red fire standpipe lines that you see in the public stairwells. NEVER obstruct the stairs or the standpipe system by using the stairwells as a storage area. It is a serious building code violation and a dangerous obstruction to you and your neighbors as well as responding firefighters. Forget about using the elevators unless you have been directed to do so by the FDNY. Unfortunately, elevators can end up traveling to the floor where the fire is located.

When your property manager sends out the fire safety materials, take the time to read and understand them, and be sure to create a safety plan for you and your family. It can be as simple as setting a specific meeting place outside in the event of an emergency, and should also include learning to find and use the fire extinguisher if necessary and what to do in the event of a fire. For any type of NYC emergency, a web search to “Ready New York” provides an abundance of training and practice materials. Be a helping hand to your family and others by being aware of these basics.

Many fire dangers are easily avoidable if certain precautions are implemented, as outlined above.

Many fire dangers are easily avoidable if certain precautions are implemented, as outlined above.

Upgrade Your Landscaping this Year With Tips from the Pros

As warm weather finally arrives, spring flowers and new foliage are a welcome sight after
the long, cold winter. But your landscaping may need a facelift this season. From entryways to rooftops, the plantings your building installs make an enormous difference in the lifestyles of your residents as well as the value of the entire property. DEPM’s managers
work closely with boards and contractors to make sure that these oases retain their beauty
all season long.
According to landscape architect Tom Salaki, owner of Square Acre Studio, who is working on the landscaping at one of our complexes in Queens, maintaining and upgrading urban landscapes is a joint effort involving building staff, contractors, caretakers and designers. Here are a few of his tips for keeping your landscaping looking
• Irrigation: Having a proper irrigation system installed will save you money in the long run. It keeps plants wet during dry spells, helps to flush out any soil contaminants and reduces the need for plant replacement and fertilizers.
• Maintenance: It is important for the building manager and the landscape maintenance
crew to be on the same page as to how outdoor spaces should be maintained. Many times a watchful manager can spot problems before the landscape crew is on site for their weekly visit. Sometimes just one day can make a huge difference between keeping plants alive and having to replace them.
• Patience: Climate, seasonal changes and availability play a huge factor in what can
successfully be installed at your property. Give plants and landscapes time. The general rule with newly installed plants is that the first year they sleep, the next year they creep, and the third year they leap.

BEFORE: This barren roof is not only unattractive, but it's also wasted space.

BEFORE: This barren roof is not only unattractive, but it’s also wasted space.

AFTER: Creating a rooftop barbeque area can make a huge change in the lifestyles of all your buildings' residents.

AFTER: Creating a rooftop barbeque area can make a huge change in the lifestyles of all your building’s residents.

Strathmore Before 1

BEFORE: The plantings around this entryway do nothing to enhance the look of the building

Strathmore After 1

AFTER: The same entryway is almost unrecognizable with new plantings, a seating area, and architectural details installed as part of the landscaping. The upgrade provides residents with outdoor living space and adds value to the entire property.

Be sure to speak to your property manager about how your building can improve its
landscaping or create new outdoor space to enjoy this season.

NYC’s New Electronics Recycling Program Takes Hazards Out of the Waste Stream

Even though many New Yorkers are still not aware of it, a full ban on the disposal of electronics went into effect on January 1, 2015. The grace period for avoiding fines of $100 per violation is about to end, so be sure all residents are up to date on the newest recycling regulations.

Enacted by Governor Cuomo in 2010, the NYS Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act is overseen by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The law went into effect in stages, with the final stage being the January 1, 2015 statewide ban on the disposal of electronics, except through acceptable recycling avenues.

If you live in a building of more than ten units, your property is entitled to free “room cleanout” service by the New York City Department of Sanitation, under their new “e-cycleNYC” program. These buildings can collect and store unwanted electronics and arrange for pick-up by calling 212-437-4647 or emailing Pick-up is guaranteed within five business days.

Buildings of 50 or more units will be provided with a locked storage bin in which to collect electronics for pick-up within three business days of contacting the e-cycle program. Properties with 250 or more units can contact the City to schedule e-cycleNYC events on the premises, and inform residents of when and where to bring their electronics for pick-up. According to the City’s website, data on electronic devices will be fully erased by e-cycleNYC as part of the recycling process if you live in an eligible building.

The City will pick up large electronic devices including TVs, VCRs, DVRs, DVDs, cable and satellite boxes, video game consoles, computers and peripherals such as hard drives and keyboards, printers, scanners, fax machines. They will also pick up small devices such as tablets, mobile phones, MP3 players, and iPods.

Americans dispose of about 400 million electronic devices every year, adding a huge volume along with a wide range of toxins to the waste stream. According to Kathryn Garcia, Commissioner of the NYC Sanitation Department, electronic equipment has become the fastest-growing component of the hazardous waste stream. “By recycling electronics, New Yorkers can help decrease disposal costs and protect the environment,” she said in a statement about the new law.

In addition to the e-cycleNYC pick-up programs, other recycling options for New Yorkers throughout the state include retail drop-off locations at Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Best Buy, Staples, or the Gowanus E-Waste Warehouse in Brooklyn. The City also has scheduled SAFE (solvents, automotive, flammables and electronics) Disposal Events throughout the five boroughs. For 2015 dates visit Visit for more information about selling or donating electronics that are still working, and for more information about the new electronics recycling regulations.

Visit for more information about the new electronics recycling regulations.

Visit for more information
about the new electronics recycling

DEPM Building Staff Honored for Outstanding Work

For their exemplary work and long-term service, John Battle was named Doorman of the Year by Union 32BJ, and Robert Andrzejewski was named Resident Manager of the Year by the New York Association of Realty Managers (NYARM). John received his award at the Annual Building Service Workers Awards ceremony this Fall, and Robert will be honored in April at NYARM’s annual awards gala.
John was chosen due to the long-lasting friendships, honesty, and hard-working nature he has brought to the job for the past 24 years as doorman for the DEPM-managed Eastwood Towers at 355 East 72nd Street. “We are so proud that John has been named Doorman of the Year for 2014,” says John Janangelo, Executive Vice President of DEPM. “Congratulations to him for this outstanding honor.”
Yolanda Queen, Property Manager for the building, added, “Part of our job as managers is to ensure that every building has a great staff. The doormen are the most public presence in any building, and their attitude and attention make a real difference to every resident and their visitors. We greatly appreciate John’s positive outlook and genuine concern for the residents of Eastwood Towers.”
Robert Andrzejewski is Resident Manager at the DEPM-managed Charleston Condominium at 225 East 34th Street. Many of his colleagues will be there on April 24th to cheer him on as he accepts his award.
“Rob knows his job and does it well 150% of the time,” says DEPM Property Manager Sharon Langlais. “I trust him, the Board trusts him, and most importantly, the residents of The Charleston trust and respect him. He’s the Resident Manager that will stay up all night to make sure a problem in the building is resolved. He is dedicated and very loyal. The building is well maintained, the staff is top notch and that’s because of Rob. If anyone deserves this award, it’s him. He makes my job easier, and as a Property Manager in NYC you can’t ask for more.”
“Robert is a very special person,” says Margie Russell, Executive Director of NYARM. “He is ready to accept new ideas and move ahead, always with a smile. He is a shining example of the kind of person Jim is very good at attracting and keeping on the DEPM team,” she adds, referring to Jim O’Connor, President of Douglas Elliman Property Management.

Rob Andrzejewski and his wife Ela. Rob will receive NYARM's Resident Manager of the Year award at their April 24th Gala for his work at  the DEPM-managed Charleston Condominium on East 34th Street.

Rob Andrzejewski and his wife Ela. Rob will receive NYARM’s Resident Manager of the Year award at their April 24th Gala for his work at the DEPM-managed Charleston Condominium on East 34th Street.

Rebate Programs and Free Offers For Energy-Efficient Equipment

At DEPM, we are always looking for ways to help our properties save money. We have been working with Con Ed and National Grid, who offer a wide variety of rebates, discounts, and refunds for installing energy-saving equipment. Right now there are incentive programs for energy controls, efficient boilers and burners, hot water heaters and more. In many cases, the utility will actually provide and install products—such as lighting and control valves—that will conserve energy, completely free of charge.

In one of our properties, a rental complex in Queens, we have signed up to receive free thermostatic radiator valves, which will be provided and installed at absolutely no cost. With 1500 units in the complex, and an average of two to three valves per unit, this represents an enormous up-front savings of around $375,000! Not to mention the reduced fuel consumption that these valves will result in, since they will allow residents to turn the heat down if they experience overheating, instead of opening the windows and wasting precious energy.

Other conservation incentives include low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, “smart” power strips, and LED lights. Some buildings are eligible to receive these important energy-saving devices at no cost for individual units. Others, depending on building size and location, may be eligible for free high-efficiency light bulbs for common areas as well.

Replacing traditional lighting with high efficiency bulbs can save your building thousands of dollars. You may be eligible to receive free energy-efficient lights, showerheads or other equipment through Con Ed and National Grid's rebate programs.

Replacing traditional lighting with high efficiency bulbs can save your building thousands of dollars. You may be eligible to receive free energy-efficient lights, showerheads or other equipment through Con Ed and National Grid’s rebate programs.

Because these programs are constantly changing, depending on funding, building size, and location, it’s difficult to know what is available and who is eligible. To understand the programs offered, and expedite the paperwork required, you really need to speak to the experts. Your Douglas Elliman Property Manager can help your building navigate through the often complicated and confusing process of finding and qualifying for these ever-changing incentive programs. Ask your Managing Agent how your building can make some of these improvements, protect the environment, upgrade systems, and save on fuel bills. We are already beginning to schedule free equipment installations in some of our buildings, that will result in very welcome savings on electricity and gas costs.