For over twenty years, the owner of the Park Savoy has illegally operated a commercial hotel in violation of its certificate of occupancy, receiving multiple violations relating to its unlawful use of the building for commercial restaurants and hotel rooms, which was not permitted by the certificate of occupancy. When the owner tried to legitimize the hotel and commercial operation, the City denied their request in November of 2016. The owner continued to operate the building illegally as a hotel without permits, along with unpermitted restaurants on the first floor, until the City inexplicably gave it a pass to operate a shelter from the building.

The West 58th Street Coalition was established to prevent potential loss of life, of both the homeless and neighbors, due to the dangerous building safety conditions. Numerous experts were hired to examine the issues and bring them to light. They have written affidavits that have been presented in the Coalition’s Article 78 filing against the City. Read on for the background on these experts and excerpts from their filings.

Robert G. Kruper is the president of Kruper Consultants Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in preparing and reviewing fire safety plans and emergency action plans for buildings and hotels in New York City. Mr. Kruper was a member of the FDNY from 1981-2002, serving as a lieutenant in the FDNY from 1990-1998. As an FDNY lieutenant, Mr. Kruper supervised building inspection activities and enforcement of the New York City fire prevention laws. Mr. Kruper later served as a captain in the FDNY, and company commander of a ladder company where he was responsible for the fire company’s overall readiness, staffing, training, policies, and procedures. Based upon his extensive experience with the FDNY and as a fire consultant, he is an expert in the field of fire safety.

After reviewing the DOB filings for the Building, Mr. Kruper concluded that the Building “…is extremely dangerous from a fire safety standpoint…” since, among other things, “…there is only one means of egress from the Building”. According to Mr. Kruper, the Park Savoy is a “disaster waiting to happen” and “there is a significant risk that people will lose their lives if this building is permitted to open and operate as a homeless shelter”.

Mr. Kruper explained that a single means of egress would be “extremely unsafe” in this building because “as many as 150 people would all be rushing to the same exit in the event of an emergency, like a fire. Moreover, in the event of a fire, the occupants would have to use as their means of egress the same stairway as any firefighters coming up the stairs”. In his expert opinion, “every occupant and neighbor will be in significant danger due to the significant fire safety risks posed by this Building”. Robert Skallerup has been a professional licensed architect for thirty years and served as both Manhattan Borough Commissioner for the DOB from June 2001 until June 2002 and the Deputy Commissioner of Facilities and Management for DHS from 2002 until his retirement in April of 2011. As Facilities Commissioner for DHS, Mr. Skallerup scouted and approved potential new locations for shelter facilities. In that capacity, he supervised a staff of 250 people for the purpose of “analyzing and inspecting prospective buildings for safety purposes and to assure that they were generally suitable to serve as homeless shelters”. Mr. Skallerup alone had the authority to make the final determination with respect to all proposed facilities.

On at least two occasions, Mr. Skallerup made the decision not to approve a proposed facility because the building was unsafe since “the policy during my time with the DHS was that we would not risk the safety and welfare of future occupants of a building, or the public, in order to open a new facility” even if “there was a shortage of homeless housing capacity at the time. After reviewing the documents filed with the DOB, Mr. Skallerup concluded that the “Building is unsafe and unsuitable to open as a homeless shelter” because, among other things: (a) the corridors are too narrow; (b) the Building contains dead-end corridors; (c) the travel distance to the sole means of egress is too far; and (d) the sole means of egress improperly and illegally exists to the lobby of the Building.

Mr. Skallerup concluded, for the reasons listed above, but also very specifically that the Building was dangerous because it had one means of egress that did not exit directly to the street. According to section 1027.1 of the Building Code, every building must have at least one means of egress that exits directly to the street. In the Building, there is only one means of egress, and that means of egress exits directly to the rear of the Building’s lobby, requiring residents to travel through the lobby and out the front door in the event of a fire. According to Mr. Skallerup, “the lack of an exit directly to the street constitutes a significant safety hazard as there are emergency situations where the residents may not be able to safely exit through the lobby, for example, if the lobby is filled with smoke. Without a means of egress which exists directly to the street, the residents will be forced to walk through the dangerous condition in the lobby instead of directly to the safety of the street.”

Mr. Skallerup concluded that as former Borough Commissioner and Facilities Manager for DHS, he “never would have accepted this Building as the site of a homeless shelter, nor would [he] have permitted this Building to operate as a homeless shelter in its current condition. He added that since his retirement in 2011, he had not “consulted in any litigation”, but that he “felt compelled to offer [his] services to the petitioners in this matter” because of “significant concerns about the safety and welfare of the future occupants of this Building, as well as the public at large, should this Building open as a homeless shelter”. He felt it was his “duty to share [his] knowledge and experience with the Court to prevent this homeless shelter from opening until the building is confirmed to be safe.”

Robert Mascali is the former Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Chief of Staff, Assistant Commissioner for Government and Community Affairs and Director of Field Operations for DHS from 1999 to 2007. Since leaving DHS, Mascali has served as a homelessness expert and consultant for years.

With respect to the unsafe conditions in the Building, Mascali stated: “In my time at DHS, I would never have allowed a shelter to open with any of the continuing building code and safety issues present at the Park Savoy. I would have ensured that basic safety issues were remedied…and that the building was up to code, before authorizing the opening of a homeless shelter. Based on my experience, the building is currently dangerously unsafe for occupation, and is a disaster waiting to happen”

The Coalition continues to fight for the safety of the homeless and neighbors of the Park Savoy building.