2011-08-24 / Features

Judge Rules Fire Alarm Boxes Must Stay

Photo Ben Schumin Photo Ben Schumin A federal judge last week struck down a plan to remove fire alarm boxes from New York City streets, saying the proposal discriminates against the deaf. City officials last year sought to lift a permanent injunction that blocks the dismantling of fire alarm boxes by proposing an alternate system that utilizes public pay phones. Manhattan Federal Judge Robert Sweet last week ruled the 15-year ban should remain in place because the pay phone system won’t work.

“Public pay phones are not located on every other corner, or otherwise distributed evenly throughout the city,”

Sweet said in his ruling.

The city has close to the same number of pay phones (14,500) as fire alarm boxes (15,077), Sweet said. While nine percent of fire alarms are out of service at any given time, 17 percent to 25 percent of pay phones are likewise inoperable, he stated.

Sweet also found that the city has not shown that a “tapping system” developed for the hearing impaired works – or that enough deaf people are aware of it to make it useful.

City officials said they are disappointed that they are now required to maintain a street alarm box system that costs millions of dollars each year, “that has been all but abandoned by the public”.—Liz Goff

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