Dominick Calsolaro

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Falls from windows prompt calls for law

Albany council members urge requiring landlords to install safety devices to protect children Falls from windows prompt calls for law Albany council members urge requiring landlords to install safety devices to protect children

Published on 8/1/2006 by the Times Union written by BRIAN NEARING, Staff writer, Times Union

ALBANY -- Landlords would have to install bar-like window guards under a proposal by three Common Council members in the wake of last month's accident at an Albany Housing Authority complex, where a 4-year-old boy survived a fall from an 11th-story window.

While the city cannot force the public housing authority to follow suit, the proposed ordinance would apply to hundreds of privately owned apartments on the second floor or above where children live, said co-sponsor Councilman Dominick Calsolaro.

Under the measure, the city Building and Codes Division would review the types of window guards available and recommend which ones ought to be required by the council. Calsolaro said the ordinance, which is on the council's agenda for its meeting Monday, is modeled after a 1976 New York City law.

Hasiem Townsend remains in Albany Medical Center Hospital with a fractured skull, broken facial bones, a broken leg and possible spine fractures after he fell July 7 at the authority's Lincoln Square on Morton Avenue.

"Screens are not going to keep a kid from falling out of a window. You drive past there, and you can see people hanging out the windows," said Calsolaro, who with council members Carolyn McLaughlin and Barbara Smith also is sponsoring a separate measure urging the housing authority to voluntarily install the guards.

A common type of window guard is made of aluminum or steel bars with a maximum 4-inch spacing. It is installed in the bottom half of a double-hung window.

A spokesman for a landlords group said a law requiring window guards was an unfair expense that shifted responsibility from parents. A window guard, depending on the type, can cost $20 or more per window.

"Parents should be responsible for their children," said Judd Feinman, vice president of the Capital District Association of Rental Property Owners. "To constantly put the responsibility on landlords is ludicrous and unjust."

The housing authority is considering a voluntary window guard program like that used in Boston since 1993, said authority Executive Director Steve Longo.

"It will focus on safety education, individual responsibility and optional window guard," he said. "The final version of the policy is anticipated to contain provision for the Albany Housing Authority to install child-safety window guards at no cost to the residents upon the request of any family with minor-age children residing, whether temporarily as a guest of the leaseholder or as a member of a household pending transfer, in an apartment above the first floor."

Longo said an unidentified local charitable institution has offered to cover part of the cost of the guards. "Several types and styles of guards are being evaluated, and we expect to have a sample available for testing within the coming week," he said.

Townsend's mother, Elizabeth Burciaga, faces a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child, which carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail. She is scheduled to appear Monday in City Court. Her attorney has said she likely will not accept a plea offer that would require her to spend eight months in jail.

The Lincoln Square case was the latest falling accident this year involving a child. Last month, a 2-year-old girl suffered minor injuries after she fell from a third-floor window of a Brunswick Road home in Troy. The girl opened a locked window in a bedroom in the rear of the home, crawled onto a roof and then fell 24 feet onto a patch of dirt in the backyard. Police investigated the incident and determined there was no negligence on the part of the girl's parents.

On June 17, 23-month-old Gabriel Lopez was hospitalized with head injuries after pushing through a second-floor window screen on Carrie Street in Schenectady.

Officials in New York City and Boston credit window guards with preventing hundreds of accidents.

In New York City, window guards are required in apartments with children under 11 years old.

Thirty years ago, when the law went into effect, 217 children fell from open windows, according to figures from the New York City Health and Public Hygiene Department. Three years later, there were 80 reported falls. In 2002 there were just three.

In Boston, the city housing authority adopted a voluntary program in 1993, after 18 children fell from windows in six months, according to the city Public Health Commission.

Between 1993 and 1997, accidental falls dropped by 83 percent, according to commission figures for the city's "Kids Can't Fly" program.

The program distributes window guards, especially to low-income families, and matches property managers' purchases of the guards up to $1,000.

Brian Nearing can be reached at 454-5094 or by e-mail at

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