Railings on terraces and balconies

The tragedy at 400 East 57th Street is only the most recent event whereby an unsuspecting person trusted a terrace railing.

Here is what I have seen and what I recommend.

Never trust a railing…its presence is as a deterrant – it is not a safety device;
Aluminum corrodes differently than steel and is more difficult to detect;
Many times corrosive fasteners are used with aluminum railings.

Recommendations for your clients

In January 2013, the DOB issued a Rule Amendment that requires ‘all owners to periodically check the adequacy and structural integrity of all of their balcony railings’.

Unit owners and supers are the closest to the source. Have them report any suspected railing or post condition. If any are reported, have an expert review the condition. Based upon his findings, the expert will advise if more railings should be inspected.

The Board should issue a recommendation that railings shall not be sat upon nor shall they be leaned against. The reason a railing exists is to ‘guide’ the person back to safety. Much the same way a highway ‘guide’ rail (often miss-called a guard rail) re-directs a vehicle on a highway, but cannot stop a vehicle.

Local Law 11 requires the inspection of railings, but this is a costly and logistical nightmare.

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