Legislators Seek to Mandate Elevator Safety Improvements and Enforcement in Public Housing

June 6, 2009

New York, NY – Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan), State Senator Jose M. Serrano (D-Bronx/Manhattan), Borough President Scott Stringer (D-Manhattan), State Senator Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn/Manhattan), other elected officials, and community advocates for public housing called for the passage of a bill introduced by Assemblymember Kavanagh and Senator Serrano that would increase elevator safety in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residential buildings.

The bill (A.08154/S.4603) would require NYCHA to install devices that prevent elevator doors from opening when the elevator is between floors – preventing the kind of circumstance that led to the tragic death of 5-year-old Jacob Neuman in August of last year. The bill would also ban the City’s prior practice of exempting NYCHA from routine Department of Buildings safety inspections.

Many public housing residents, including seniors, children, and people with disabilities, struggle everyday with broken elevators that constantly fail to provide necessary services. Many of the system’s 3,300 elevators are unsafe, unreliable, and poorly maintained. As previously reported by the media, in the worst scenarios, the lives of public housing residents are endangered by broken elevators.

“There seems to have been some progress in increasing safety in recent months, but broken and unsafe elevators are still a harsh reality for thousands of public housing residents all across New York City,” said Assemblymember Kavanagh. “The time has come for the Legislature to make sure that residents’ safety is not something we gamble with – it needs to be a sure bet. It is critical that we ensure that elevators are properly inspected and that unsafe conditions are promptly and effectively addressed now, and prevented in the future.”

Last year, Borough President Stringer released a report on NYCHA’s elevator safety. The Borough President’s report, entitled “Dangerous Neglect: Elevator Safety in New York City Housing Authority Buildings,” found that three quarters of elevator inspections in the last 5 years have resulted in unsatisfactory ratings. A8154/S4603 addresses the major finding of the report and aims to make New York City public housing elevators safer for tenants and their visitors.

“East Harlem, which I represent, has the highest concentration of public housing in the country. I consider it my responsibility to demand that these buildings be safe places for our families to live. It is unacceptable for these elevators to be in anything less than perfect working condition, and it is important that there be safety mechanisms in place, should they stall. The Manhattan Borough President’s report demonstrates, with heartbreaking detail, the neglect these housing projects have endured, and it’s imperative that this issue be immediately addressed,” said Senator Serrano.

Borough President Stringer said, “Door restrictors are simple, relatively inexpensive safety equipment, like automobile air bags, and have the potential to save lives. There is no excuse for the Housing Authority’s failure to install them on all its elevators. I want to thank Assemblymember Kavanagh and Senator Serrano for their leadership in turning the recommendations of our report on door restrictors, elevator inspections and other NYCHA elevator service improvements into law. Working together, we can make a difference for the thousands of Housing Authority residents who suffer every day from poor, unreliable or non-existent elevator service.”

“For NYCHA residents, each elevator trip between home and the outside world is too likely to be uncomfortable, inconvenient or truly perilous,” said Senator Daniel Squadron (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn). “Thousands of my constituents make their home in NYCHA developments; this legislation will make them safer and dramatically improve their quality of life. I commend Borough President Stringer for his work uncovering these problems and recommending improvements, and I commend Assemblymember Kavanagh and Senator Serrano for introducing much-needed legislation to address the problem.”

“As a tenant leader and public housing resident, I stand here today with my representatives on behalf of fellow NYCHA residents who fear for their safety because of malfunctioning elevators everyday,” said Teresita Rivera resident and tenant association secretary at 344 East 28th Street a NYCHA complex in Assemblymember Kavanagh’s district where emergency meetings are held to discuss the issue of elevators that keep failing.

The bill has already been approved by the Cities Committee in both the Assembly and the Senate, and is expected to move toward consideration by the full Assembly and Senate in the coming days.