Hurricane season began on June 1
In the closing days of the 2013 legislative session, New York architects - led by AIA New York State and its 7,000 members - are mounting a concerted effort for passage of "Good Samaritan" legislation in Albany. Local chapters across the state - from Buffalo down to Suffolk County - are being mobilized to contact the Assembly speaker requesting a vote on the bill.
New York and New Jersey were the states most severely affected by "Superstorm" Sandy last fall, but neither state affords its architects "Good Samaritan" immunity from liability when they volunteer their services in a state of emergency.
"Hundreds of architects volunteered their professional services in the wake of Sandy to help an overtaxed New York City Department of Buildings in the evaluation of over 80,000 damaged structures," says Timothy Boyland, AIA New York State vice president for government advocacy and partner in the Staten Island-based firm Vengoechea + Boyland Architecture. "However, lack of protection from a 'Good Samaritan' law kept architects on the sidelines, unable to assist city officials in assessing affected properties."
Bills have been introduced in both houses of the New York State Legislature to protect architects (as well as engineers, landscape architects and land surveyors), with sponsors hoping to muster enough support to see it through to passage in the legislative session that ends in June. Support for the bill has also coalesced in the New York City Council with the introduction of a resolution - cosponsored by eleven members of the council - that urges the Legislature to pass and the governor to sign before the end of the session.
Twenty-five states have a "Good Samaritan" law. Increasingly frequent natural disasters highlight the value of the skills and experience that architects can provide in a disaster. With severe weather becoming more common due to the effects of climate change, New York will continuously be threatened by storms. (Indiana passed a law last week, and Oklahoma - the victim of recent poundings by devastating tornados - has had legislation on the books for years.)