At any moment in New York, as many people may be traveling up and down vertically on elevators as there are people using mass transit. 30 million trips each day, on 60,000 elevators in NYC. Yet it is a trust given without question, that our daily use of it will be safe.
With nearly 20 deaths since 2003 and the high profile death of an advertising executive in midtown, the city has learned in recent months that very little is known about that integral facet of urban life (in fact it has been nine years since the city council held an oversight meeting on elevartor safety). Now, significant changes appear to be on the way.
The city council is now weighing two proposals [i] to require elevator mechanics be licensed [ii] to require the installation of a safety mechanism that stops an elevator from hitting the ceiling in case it suddenly accelerates.
The first bill is sponsored by City Council Members Peter Vallone and James Vacca, and was sponsored following the death of advertising executive Suzanne Hart, 41, who was crushed to death as the elevator she was getting into shot up suddenly with the doors still open. Caught in the process of entering the elevator, Hart was killed between two floors.
A Department of Buildings investigation alerted officials that a mechanic has forgotten to remove an inhibitor while conducting maintenance work on that elevator earlier. Dozens of city's require licensing for elevator mechanics, on average those cities saw a 25% reduction in elevator accidents.
The second bill was proposed by Councilman Erik Martin Dilan, but only aims to require the safety mechanism for residential and mixed-use buildings. The device would have prevented Hart's death as she went to work - when asked by PIX11 News Monday about the omission of commercial buildings, Dilan explained he wrote his bill before Hart's death in December, and seemed open to expanding the bill to include office and commercial buildings.
Nonetheless, the DOB requires installation of the device on all new construction, which constitutes about 25% of the elevators currently in operation in the city. DOB Commissioner Robert LiMandri along with an association representing building owners expressed concerns over whether the safety device can actually be installed on older elevators with are far more low-tech.
The following is a list of 10 Worst Offenders for Elevator Safety, as ranked by the DOB. Coincidentally, it only includes privately owned buildings, which does not include elevators the city operates.
Top 10 Elevator Offenders (Source: NYC, Department of Buildings - updated April 2, 2012)
1. 1990 Lexington Avenue, MN
Owner: Urban American Management LLC
2. 1105 Stratford Avenue (Bronx)
Owner: Stratford Holdings LLC
3. 129 Ridge Street, MN
Owner: 129-135 Ridge Street HDFC
4. 231 Steuben Street, SI
Owner: Steuben Delshah LLC
5. 565 West 139th Street, MN
Owner: 565 West 139th Street LP
6. 2344 Boston Road, BX
Owner: Bronx Park East Housing Co. Inc.
7. 2013 Amsterdam Avenue a.k.a. 442 West 160th Street, MN
Owner: 2013 Amsterdam LLC
8. 10-40 Richman Plaza, BX
Owner: Harlem River Park Houses
9. 319 Beach 98th Street, QN
Owner: Bay Towers Company
10. 885 Third Avenue, MN
Owner: 885 Third Owner LLC