Bill Seeks to Improve Safety By Requiring Safety Device on New York City Housing Authority Elevators

Identical bills have been introduced in the New York State Senate (S04603) and Assembly (A8154) that would require the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to place door or zone restrictors on its nearly 3,340 elevators. The devices prevent people trapped inside stalled housing elevators from opening the cab doors by locking the cab door when an elevator is not aligned with a floor landing. The devices operate even when an elevator loses power because they do not rely on electricity.

The bills come on the heels of a class action lawsuit filed in the United States Court for the Eastern District of New York on April 21, 2009 to force the New York City Housing Authority to repair and maintain its more than 3,300 elevators.

The proposed law:
1. mandates the installation of door zone restrictors in elevators within buildings owned by NYCHA;
2. establishes that all public housing elevators are inspected by the Department of Buildings following the same rules other New York City building owners follow;
3. mandates interagency coordination between the New York City Housing Authority, the Department of Buildings, and the Fire Department with all relevant information regarding elevator hazards, rescue missions from the Fire Department, and other elevator safety concerns; and
4. requires NYCHA to disclose all inspection data to the public.

Such reports shall provide a detailed explanation of how the elevators were graded and why an elevator received an unsatisfactory grade. Door or zone restrictors are part of the elevator safety standards established by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Experts say that had a door or zone restrictor been in place on that elevator, Jacob Neumans accident could not have occurred and he would still be alive. A major impetus for the proposed legislation is the death last August of Jacob Neuman, 5-year-old Brooklyn boy who, while on his way to school, fell down a shaft while trying to jump from a stalled elevator.

A 52-page report by the New York City Department of Buildings regarding Jacob Neumans accident revealed that the elevators technical problems were tied to faulty maintenance by the New York City Housing Authority, including misalignment and wear and tear of electrical contacts in the motor room control panel. Checking for wear on electrical contacts and replacing worn ones should have been part of the elevators routine upkeep.

The city did not require all newly installed elevators and existing elevators undergoing renovations to have restrictors until 1993. Elevators installed before 1993 that have not been modernized are not required to have them. 746 elevators at 84 developments did not have restrictors. In December of 2008, NYCHA management decided to install the devices on all elevators.

The lawmakers who introduced the bills are Assemblyman Brian P. Kavanagh of Manhattan and State Senator Jos M. Serrano of the Bronx and East Harlem. If passed and signed by the Governor, it would become effective immediately.

The JUSTIFICATION section of the bills state: “Approximately 400,000 residents–5 percent of New York’s City population currently live in NYCHA housing complexes. Many of these residents, including seniors, children, and people with disabilities, struggle with broken elevators that constantly fail to provide necessary services. 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. In August 2008, a 5-year-old boy, Jacob Newman, was killed while opening the doors of a stalled elevator and trying to escape. In 2007, a Brooklyn woman, who suffered from asthma, also died as she was forced to walk up ten stories to reach her apartment when both elevators in her building were broken. Last year, Manhattan Borough President Scott M.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 3/4 of elevator inspections in the last 5 years have resulted in unsatisfactory ratings. This bill addresses the major finding of the Borough President’s report and aims to make New York City public housing elevators safer for tenants and their visitors.”

The lawyers at Levine & Slavit have decades of experience getting results for our clients who have sustained personal injuries in accidents. We have offices in Manhattan and Long Island, handling cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas. To learn more, contact the personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit for their help, or watch our videos.

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