Elevators to nowhere?

An Eyewitness News Investigation
November 25, 2008 9:43:26 PM PST
Eyewitness News spent months looking into elevator problems at New York housing developments. We visited nearly a dozen New York City housing developments in different boroughs over two months.

The other day, disabled senior, Lilly Johnson, had to walk up 3 flights when the elevators went down.

Sometimes, they can't walk. Recently at Brooklyn's Farragut Houses-Mark Gardner got stuck outside for hours when both elevators went down.

At the Castle Hill houses in the Bronx, a wheelchair-bound Gloria Alvarez needs kidney dialysis three times a week. She can't go when the elevators are out.

At a recent city council hearing NYCHA officials were asked about elevator outages.

We re-visited a number of developments over time to make sure the problems we saw weren't isolated cases.

Hector Vega and his four kids live on the 19th floor.

"There's times when they're both out and I have to walk my kids up," he said.

Everyone seems to know the elevators' quirks.

One elevator only closes if you hit 14, but then it's a wild ride.

"It's just going wherever it wants to," one person explained. "These elevators do whatever they want, they're so screwed up. They have a mind of their own."

Recent serious accidents have made news, especially the tragic death of a 5-year-old boy trying to escape a stalled elevator in Brooklyn in August.

There are other minor accidents and near misses not publicized.

Idelier Guillard says she recently lost her shoe, and almost her leg.

"How does it make me feel? I'm still angry. I could have been hurt or killed," she said.

Her friend jumped out of the same elevator.

The Manhattan Boro President recently issued a report called "Dangerous Neglect."

"If these elevators were going out on Park Avenue or in corporate America, there would be an outcry," Scott Stringer said.

NYCHA reported 43,762 failures in the systems' 33-hundred elevators in the fiscal year 2008.

"We believe we have a system that's safe that we can continue, that we need to continue to improve,"

Help can't come soon enough for those who wonder every day if they'll get from here to there.

The city says it plans to spend more than $100 million dollars to improve and replace 550 elevators beginning next year, but many residents with whom we spoke simply do not believe it.

Roughly 75 percent of the housing authority's elevators receive an unsatisfactory rating from its own inspectors.

NYCHA says it plans to spend $5 million dollars to hire additional inspectors and other staff.

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