By Maya Dower-Johnson
The New York City Council Committee held a Housing and Buildings hearing on Thursday at City Hall, seeking out necessary information about the operation and safety of all elevators in the city.
The committee is looking to bring up any and all parallels between general public elevators and NYCHA elevators, in order to remedy and eradicate all problems, so as to better service New Yorkers who rely on elevators every day.
Many members of the committee have noticed the many inconsistencies with regulating general public elevators and NYCHA elevators as a whole. There is also a distinct difference in the training between NYCHA workers and those at the Department of Buildings (DOB), which often leaves NYCHA so far down the ladder, in terms of being able to detect and solve problems before and as they happen. There is a desperate need for standardizing the training for NYCHA workers, to match that of the DOB.
“There needs to be some standardization of those trainings,” said the Chair of the Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings, Robert Cornegy. “Even if they’re being trained on another track, maybe there should be an opportunity to standardize that training so that potentially the hundreds of thousands of NYCHA residents aren’t getting a less service because they’re not trained in the same DOB way.”
Although elevators are put through thorough inspections every single year by the DOB’s 51 inspectors, they are still often found to not be running correctly which, at times, leaves passengers injured and afraid.
When someone files a complaint to 3-1-1 for a general public elevator, a DOB inspector is sent out to investigate the issue usually within 24 hours. However, since NYCHA has its own complaint hotline and 3-1-1 is not involved, the DOB is very unlikely to come and it could be days later before the necessary party is finally contacted.
The system that the DOB has in place is not a very trustworthy one for New Yorkers who depend on elevators that are a part of NYCHA since “the city has an understanding with NYCHA that’s been in place for quite some time, and that’s that NYCHA is responsible for, their own elevators,” said Assistant Commissioner of External Affairs Patrick Wehle.
Another issue that needs to be investigated is the extent of verification of the elevator maintenance logs located in private properties, as well as NYCHA.
“Are those logs being verified by DOB?” asked Councilman Mark Gjonaj.
The response was that there is no oversight for private properties, only if there’s a complaint that triggers the DOB causing them to have to inspect the location. At this time, they will then verify that the logs are being maintained.
Lastly, being that we’ve been living in the twenty-first century and are well up to speed on the latest technology, elevator modernization is inevitable. The question that remains is when will it happen.
“Modernizations, unfortunately, can take quite a bit of time,” said Wehle. “Part of the reason why is that modernization often requires new parts, and new parts need to be fabricated outside of the city and it takes time to build these parts and install these parts.”
Throughout the questioning, the assistant commissioner failed to respond with a clear answer several times when the committee addressed possible issues with NYCHA elevators. These questions are to be included in a follow-up hearing in the near future.
We have so many elevators in the city, general public as well as private. “The important thing is that they be maintained properly,” said Wehle.