Don’t let Oakland fire happen in Brooklyn, Lentol says

Lawmaker pushes bill to crack down on SLA licenses

December 15, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This photo taken on Dec. 7 shows Oakland fire officials walk past the remains of the Ghost Ship warehouse damaged by a deadly fire. The Dec. 2 blaze killed dozens of people during an electronic dance party, according to officials, who said the fire quickly raced through the building and trapped revelers inside. AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File
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The devastating warehouse fire in Oakland that took the lives of 36 people should lead to major changes in the way New York state oversees parties in large venues, according to Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, who called on his legislative colleagues to vote for his bill aimed at preventing tragedies like California inferno from happening here.

The bill, which Lentol (D-North Brooklyn) introduced during the last legislative session and plans to bring up again, seeks to amend New York state’s alcoholic beverage control law to put in more requirements for the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) to uphold when they are considering issuing a temporary alcohol permit.

Under the bill, the SLA would be required to determine whether the premises where such parties, concerts and other large-scale functions would take place could endanger public safety. The determination would be made by consulting with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and local fire, police and buildings departments, Lentol said. 

The temporary alcohol permits typically utilized by caterers for weddings and special events at sanctioned sites have been misused in recent years by concert promoters to serve alcohol at pop-up music events, usually in warehouse-type buildings, according to Lentol. 

“The tragedy that occurred in Oakland was exactly the type of catastrophe I hoped to prevent when I first heard about these rave parties being held in warehouses in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. There was no oversight that ensured these parties were being held in safe locations. And, make no mistake about it, the promoters of these parties are seeking to make a quick buck by bypassing legitimate venues,” Lentol said in a statement.

Lentol said he drafted his legislation in response to several incidents in which temporary permits were issued for sites that had serious safety issues. Two of the North Brooklyn sites that were slated to host parties organized by a Swedish-based concert promoter were ordered shut down due to safety issues, he said.

The first location was a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site, a designation used for sites that contain hazardous substances and pollutants. The second location had New York City Department of Buildings violations, ranging from a lack of a sprinkler system to locked emergency exit doors. 

“Luckily, the two sites that prompted my legislation were shut down before anything disastrous happened. I urge my colleagues to pass this simple common-sense legislation so we may prevent any more senseless deaths,” Lentol stated.

The Oakland blaze took place in the Fruitvale neighborhood in the Ghost Ship, a warehouse that had been converted into an artists’ colony and where unlicensed housing units had been set up. On the night of the fire, the warehouse was the setting of a concert that was being presented without a permit.

The blaze was the deadliest fire to take place in the state of California since the San Francisco earthquake in 1906.

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