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Failure to Comply With Cooling Tower Regs Lands a Co-op in Court

Upper West Side, Manhattan

Legionella Lawsuit

The city has taken this co-op to court for blocking inspectors from the building (image via Google Maps).

Jan. 14, 2019

Members of co-op and condo boards never tire of complaining about unfunded mandates imposed by the city government. One of the most unloved is Local Law 77, which was passed in response to a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Bronx in 2015. It imposed some of the nation’s toughest standards on the maintenance and record keeping of rooftop cooling towers, which are part of central air-conditioning systems and a primary breeding ground for the potentially lethal legionella bacteria

One high-end co-op board on the Upper West Side apparently dislikes Local Law 77 so much that it has blocked city officials from conducting mandated inspections of its cooling tower. Now the city has dragged the co-op into Manhattan Supreme Court, the New York Post reports.

 The city is seeking a court order to force the co-op to allow inspectors into the building, where access has allegedly been denied 10 times since last May. There were 59 reports of Manhattan residents sickened by Legionnaires’ between July and October of last year, the suit claims, and two of the people died. 

An inspection is necessary for “to protect human life and health,” Demetre Daskalakis, deputy commissioner of the Department of Health, says in the lawsuit. City health inspectors are required to test cooling towers every three months. A building rep said she believes the property is “in compliance,” adding that management has been in touch with the city to schedule an inspection. 

The city’s Department of Health currently has 70 inspectors conducting more than 5,000 cooling-tower inspections per year. They’re armed with a hit list of 30 potential violations and the power to levy fines up to $2,000 per violation.

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