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Posted: Thursday, January 16, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 12:04 pm, Thu Jan 23, 2014.

Fatal fire prompts bill to mandate PA system in high rises

All residential buildings of seven stories or more would have to be fitted with public address systems that could tell those inside whether to flee or stay in their homes during a fire, under a bill that soon will be introduced in the City Council.

The measure, authored by new Councilman Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), follows a Jan. 5 Hell’s Kitchen blaze that killed a man and hurt his husband as they tried to exit down a smoke-filled stairwell. The victim, Daniel McClung, 27, and his husband, Michael Todd Cohen, 32, would have been fine if they had stayed in their apartment, which did not catch fire.

An online petition calling for the bill, referred to as the “Stay or Go” law, has garnered more than 5,000 signatures, according to the website where it is posted. Johnson credited a “groundswell of support from the community” with prompting him to author the measure.

“Daniel McClung’s tragic death was preventable,” Johnson’s office said in announcing the proposal. “Had there been a system in place to communicate with building residents in emergency stairwells, instructions could have been given to tell residents to use different stairwells or go back into their homes — to ‘stay or go.’”

The law would apply to both existing and new buildings. Among its backers is former Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, who recommended the requirement in a 1999 report.

Gov’t sued over owl killings at Kennedy

Friends of Animals, a New York-based advocacy group, is suing two federal agencies, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, to ensure that no more snowy owls are killed at area airports in an attempt to protect plane passengers.

The shootings of three such owls at Kennedy Airport in December prompted an outcry from activists who say they should have been relocated instead of slain. The Port Authority, which operates Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, then said it would use such nonlethal measures to manage the owls. Friends of Animals said it filed the lawsuit to make sure that happens.

The danger birds pose to planes was highlighted five years ago this week, when Miracle on the Hudson Flight 1549 out of LaGuardia landed in that river after hitting a flock of geese. Friends of Animals says the owls pose no such danger because there are fewer of them.

Unemployment aid plan stalls in Senate

A Democratic proposal to renew unemployment benefits for people who lost them in late December remains at an impasse in the U.S. Senate, the national media reported this week.

Republicans want spending cuts elsewhere to offset the cost of any federal extension of aid to the jobless, as well as a reversal of reductions previously made to military pensions. Democrats want the extension first and a discussion on the other measures later.

One proposal would extend unemployment payments, which generally last 26 weeks, by 47 weeks. A compromise plan would extend them only by 31 weeks. Any extension is widely expected to face an even tougher fight in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

Credit unions bullish

A majority of New York State’s credit unions are optimistic about the economy and expect to make more loans this year, according to a new survey by an industry group.

The Credit Association of New York says 57 percent are optimistic about their region’s outlook, while 42.6 percent are pessimistic. Seventy-six percent expect growth in business loans.

More detail can be found at cuany.org.

Pre-K in charters?

Charter schools should be allowed to offer prekindergarten classes, a new report by Gov. Cuomo’s Education Reform Commission says, according to the New York Post. The paper said that puts Mayor de Blasio in a difficult spot because he wants universal pre-K but also wants to restrict charter school growth.

— compiled by Peter C. Mastrosimone

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