CIVIC CENTER — The injured husband of a playwright who died in a high-rise fire in Hell's Kitchen on Jan. 5 is still unaware his partner didn't survive, friends said Monday.
The news came as a local politician proposed legislation that would mandate public address systems for high-rise buildings, which could be used in the event of a fire to give instructions to residents.
Michael Cohen, 32, has been in New York-Presbyterian Hospital being treated for severe smoke inhalation since a fire broke out in his building at 500 W. 43rd St. last week, killing his husband, Daniel McClung, 27.
“He is not aware of anything that has happened,” said Jason Mitchell, who visited Cohen Monday morning.
Mitchell would not go into the specifics of Cohen's recovery, only saying that he was no longer in critical condition and is getting a little better each day.
As Cohen recovered, City Councilman Corey Johnson proposed legislation in the hopes of averting what he called a preventable tragedy.
McClung, 27, died when he and Cohen, 32, ran down the stairs to escape a fire, which broke out in the high-rise on Jan. 5. The couple, who lived on the 38th floor, ran down a smoke-filled stairway without knowing that it would have been safer for them to stay in their apartment.
Johnson proposed a law Monday that would require landlords to install emergency communication system in the stairwells and hallways of any residential building higher than six floors. The systems would let rescue workers tell residents whether the stairwells were safe.
“Daniel McClung’s tragic death was preventable,” Johnson said. “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.”
The idea behind Monday’s proposed legislation came from a friend of Cohen and McClung, Javier Morgado, who created an online petition asking the city to require the installation of the communication systems.
“Residential buildings in New York City aren’t held to the same fire safety standards as commercial buildings,” the petition says. “This simple and cost-effective solution can save lives by giving first responders the means to communicate when to stay or go!”
Former FDNY commissioner, Thomas Von Essen, supported the proposed legislation. He hoped McClung’s death could inspire fire safety laws in a similar way that a 1998 Upper West Side fire that left four dead led to a law requiring new high-rises to have sprinkler systems.
“If older building are able to add wiring for the internet and cable TV, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to require a public address speaker system in the stairwells that might save lives,” he said.