Financial District high-rise residents say building plagued by "dangerous" elevator outages and malfunctions

Financial District high-rise residents say building plagued by “dangerous” elevator outages and malfunctions

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NEW YORK — Residents of hundreds of apartments at a high-rise building in Manhattan say they’ve been dealing with elevator issues for months.

They gathered outside the building on Monday and told CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis about their major safety concerns.

Aston Hunt described a “dangerous” elevator ride he had last month. Hunt called it just one example of the nightmare scenario at the rental building he calls home.

“We’ve had elevators where people have gotten stuck in them, had elevators where they’ve dropped and essentially had elevators that just are not in operation for hours and hours and hours on end for days and months now,” Hunt said.

20 Exchange Place was built more than 90 years ago as a commercial building – headquarters of City Bank-Farmers Trust Company. Now, the building houses more than 750 apartments up to the 56th floor.

“When the elevator isn’t working to the high-rise, it’s a long way home from where I’m standing,” another resident said.

Elevator banks to the 15th floor work. They frequently don’t work above that, forcing residents to take stairs, which is a real problem in emergencies.

“What if it’s paramedics? What if it’s police officers who have to climb these floors and somebody just can’t be reached in time?” Hunt said.

The residents were backed by elected officials who said the building has had elevator issues since October and they’ve only gotten worse.

“We’re here to say enough is enough,” City Council Member Christopher Marte said.

The building’s management said it “engaged more than 10 leading elevator, electrical and engineering experts to determine the origin of this problem and seek a resolution,” and pointed to electrical surges and Con Edison equipment as the likely source.

The full statement said:

The ongoing electrical surges causing the elevator outages have dramatically impacted the daily lives of hundreds of residents. Resolving this issue and alleviating the impact on our residents has been the building’s priority since the issues first began, and the building has engaged more than 10 leading elevator, electrical and engineering experts to determine the origin of this problem and seek a resolution. These experts have performed a thorough review of building equipment and so far have been unable to determine the source of the surges or identify any building equipment that could cause electrical surges of this magnitude. These experts also believe that we will not be able to identify the underlying cause of the electrical surges without the full collaboration and 24/7 support of Con Edison. The building will continue to work closely with local elected officials and city agencies to help enlist all necessary support and commit whatever resources are necessary to fix the issue and support building residents until proper elevator service is restored.

In response, Con Edison said:

Con Edison engineers have conducted extensive testing and inspections at 20 Exchange Place and found no indication that our power supply is deficient or compromised. Our experts continue to work with building management and the building’s consultants. To date, we have not been presented with any plausible theory as to why the elevator problems, which have developed since work to install a new elevator system began, are related to Con Edison equipment or service. We remain committed to helping to identify the cause and have hired the Electric Power Research Institute, a preeminent, nonprofit research organization, to assist in the investigation.

In response to Con Edison, building management said:

The timing of the start of the electrical surges commenced months after one elevator cab was upgraded, so there is no correlation between any elevator work performed at the building and the start of the electrical issues.

In late October, the building first alerted Con Edison to electrical issues at 20 Exchange and have been repeatedly asking Con Edison for further support for months, and they only engaged EPRI within the last few days. For several months, the building has engaged multiple third-party experts, including elevator companies (Nouveau Elevator Industries and Centennial Elevator); electrical engineers (Goldman Copeland, ANZ Consulting Engineering, Northeast Technical and JB&B); elevator consultants (Van Deusen Associates and Sierra Consulting); and electricians (SRS Electric and Ceriello Electric).

The Department of Buildings said inspectors made multiple site visits following complaints and found elevator mechanics making upgrades at the buildings.

“It’s time for the building, for Con Ed and for the city of New York to get together and resolve this,” State Sen. Brian Kavanagh said. 

Residents told CBS2 they’re in communication with lawyers about possible legal action and said they just want working elevators.

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