Grand Street Guild Residents Have Gone Without Cooking Gas For 39 Days

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Lucy Lopez has not been able to cook in her apartment for 39 days. Like the other residents of 200 apartments at 131 Broome St., she’s been without gas service all that time. The stove-top is out of commission and hot plates handed out by building management are no substitute.

Last night, exasperated tenants of the Grand Street Guild Apartments, a Section 8 complex, met with a representative from the management company.  Liaisons from the offices of several elected representatives were also in attendance.

The gas was shut off in August, after a leak was detected during an inspection in the building’s laundry room. According to tenants, management has said the repairs are taking so long because workers have had trouble gaining access to some apartments. Three of six gas lines have finally been repaired, but it’s anyone’s guess how long it will take to restore service to the entire building.

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131 Broome St. is the tower on the left.

Mechanical room at 131 Broome St.

Mechanical room at 131 Broome St.

In an interview today, Tenant Association President Daisy Paez told us that residents, “have nowhere to cook. They’re of a culture that likes to cook big pots of rice and beans, have food cooking all day.” Without use of their stoves, a lot of people in the building are ordering takeout and eating in restaurants. “It’s costing them a lot of money,” she said.

After Paez asked the building owner (a not-for-profit controlled by the Archdiocese of New York) to compensate tenants, $200 rebates were offered. Residents last night made it clear the offer is inadequate. Many of them are thinking of filing lawsuits.

During the meeting, Paez said the landlord could be doing a lot more to coordinate with tenants and to expedite the repairs. “If this was a non-minority complex,” she told tenants, “you people would not have to put up with this. The co-ops  across the street (meaning the market-rate Seward Park Cooperative) would never put up with this. I’m sorry to say it.”

The elected officials wrote an Oct. 4 letter to Wavecrest Management, which operates the complex, urging speedier repairs and more financial assistance for tenants. The letter was signed by State Sen. Daniel Squadron, Assemblywoman Alice Cancel, City Council member Margaret Chin, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

One resident last night, Dashia Imperiale, called on the elected representatives to do more. “How are you going to follow up on this letter?,” she asked. Imperiale said Maloney in particular should be putting pressure on the owner, since the building receives federal subsidies. Cancel’s representative, Monica Guardiola, told tenants that her office has made several attempts to contact the Archdiocese. There has been no response.

This building, 131 Broome St., has a checkered past. Last New Year’s Eve, 25-year-old Stephen Hewett-Brown was crushed by a malfunctioning elevator. Residents say it’s still common for elevators to break down and that, months after the tragedy, repairs are still being made.

We have reached out to Wavecrest Management for comment. This story will be updated if a representative from the company responds.


Report: Residents Trapped Again in Elevator That Took Young Man’s Life

The Daily News reports that the Lower East Side elevator which malfunctioned New Year’s Eve, killing a 25-year-old man, is still not working:

The elevator where a Bronx man was crushed on New Year’s Eve was supposedly fixed two days ago. But it stalled, trapping residents inside once again, The Daily News has learned. Firefighters had to respond Monday to the Broome Street building, where Stephen Hewett Brown was killed, to free the trapped, residents said. “That particular elevator was cleared just 48 hours ago, and people got stuck in it again yesterday,” said Daisy Paez, chair of the Grand Street Guild Tenant Association. “We live in a 26-story building where people have become hostages in their own homes.”

Wavecrest Management, which operates the three-building Grand Street Guild complex, did not respond to the News’ requests for comment. The elevator slammed down on Stephen Hewett Brown Dec. 31, taking his life. After the tragedy, Wavecrest Management said the elevators had been modernized in 2011, but residents dispute that. An investigation by the Department of Buildings is ongoing.

In the City Council yesterday, legislation was introduced that would require elevator repairmen to be licensed. Similar legislation has been languishing in Albany for several years. Earlier this month, State Sen. Daniel Squadron and Assemblyman Keith Wright called for renewed efforts to pass the bill in both houses.



Followup: Tenants Want Safety Assurances After Fatal Elevator Accident

We have a followup today on the tragedy that occurred on New Year’s Eve, when a 25-year-old man was crushed by an elevator at the Grand Street Guild apartment complex. Residents of the building at 131 Broome St. are meeting tomorrow to discuss long-standing concerns about elevator safety. They have requested the attendance of executives from Wavecrest Management, which operates the affordable housing development.

Last Thursday evening, an elevator cab slammed down on Stephen Hewett-Brown, an aspiring musician from the Bronx. Efforts to save him were futile. Many news stories highlighted problems with the elevators going back several years. In the Department of Buildings’ online file for 131 Broome St., 44 violations have been recorded.

Leaders of the tenant association tell us they have been pleading with the management company for several years to address safety issues in the elevators at all three buildings in the complex. Daisy Paez, tenant association president, said, “It took a life to be lost. Now Grand Street Guild is getting all of this attention. We want to make sure this never happens again. We want to know that (tenants) can get in the elevators and be safe.”

On Saturday, a memo was distributed by management that read, in part:

We express our sincere condolences to the family of Stephen Hewett-Brown for their loss. They are foremost in our thoughts. We assure you that safety is our paramount concern. We and our elevator company are actively working with the New York City Department of Buildings, the NYPD and all appropriate authorities to determine the underlying cause of this tragedy. The elevators underwent a complete modernization in 2011 and are regularly inspected and serviced by a licensed elevator maintenance and inspection agency.

131 Broome St.

131 Broome St.

Tenant association members say, however, that a “complete modernization” of Grand Street Guild’s elevators did not occur. As evidence, they cited several emails between tenants and management in the past few years. A January 2011 email stated that one elevator in each building would be modernized. In February of 2012, tenants complained about an elevator that was “jumping” erratically with passengers inside. During a $60 million renovation project funded by the federal government in 2012, there were weekly meetings involving tenant leaders and construction managers. “The elevators were at the top of the agenda for quite some time,” said Paez. Rather than replacing the cabs, tenant association members say, metal sheeting was wrapped around all four walls of each elevator. The improvements were purely cosmetic, they contend. Just three weeks ago, Paez was in an elevator with her dog when they became trapped and had to be rescued by the fire department.

Alexander Schnell, Buildings Department press secretary, told The Lo-Down, “The Department’s investigation is ongoing. Our inspectors have been on site since this tragedy occurred.” We’re told the elevator that malfunctioned has not yet been returned to service. The remaining two elevators at 131 Broome St. have been tested and are in use. According to the Buildings Department, the defective elevator was installed in 2011 and was last inspected in December. There were no open violations for “immediately hazardous” conditions. There were three open violations for what the Buildings Department considers minor infractions.

We asked Wavecrest Management for their take on the elevator modernization program. This is the response from Jay Yablonsky, director of property management:

The modernization of the elevators was specified and overseen by an independent elevator consultant and licensed architectural firm. The work was signed off by both HUD and the New York City Department of Buildings and consisted of the installation of new major elevator components, including, but not limited to, the controllers, hoist motor, hoist and governor cables, and traveling cables. In addition, those components that were retained were adjusted and serviced for proper operation.

Yablonsky said tenants will be updated regarding their investigation when more information becomes available. Alexander Schnell, the city spokesperson, said, “Accidents like this are extremely rare. The city’s elevators make billions of passenger trips every year without incident.”

“In the unlikely event of a service interruption,” he added, “the safest place to be is inside the elevator. Ring the alarm, stay calm, and wait in the elevator until help arrives.”

The three 26-story towers that make up the apartment complex were built by the Archdiocese of New York (under the auspices of St. Mary’s Church) in the early 1970s. The properties are controlled by a not-for-profit organization known as the Grand Street Guild Housing Development Fund Corp.

New Year’s Eve Tragedy: 25-Year-Old Man Crushed By Elevator at Grand Street Guild Building

On New Year’s Eve, a man from the Bronx was killed after being crushed by an elevator at a Lower East Side apartment building.

It happened just before midnight at 131 Broome St., which is part of the Grand Street Guild complex. 25-year-old Stephen Hewett-Brown had been helping other people get off the stalled elevator when the car slammed down, pinning him between the ceiling of the cab and the third floor. Bystanders tried to pull him out to no avail. Rescue crews responded quickly and rushed Brown to New York Downtown Hospital, but his injuries were too severe. The aspiring musician was pronounced dead a short time after the new year began.

When the elevator ground to a halt, passengers pried the doors open. Brown lifted a 43-year-old woman, Erude Sanchez, out of the car and wished her a happy new year. He became trapped moments later. “He was crying, ‘Help me! Help me,'” Emmanuel Coronado, Sanchez’s son-in-law, told Channel 4.

Problems with the elevators in the building are nothing new, as numerous news reports over the weekend pointed out. Here’s how the New York Times reported the story:

For residents of the 26-story building, the accident was the culmination of years of worries about erratic service and unmet safety concerns on the elevator. Madeline Regalado, 27, a medical assistant, said that just a week ago she was stuck in the elevator for several minutes as it wobbled near the lobby and the doors failed to open. “It could’ve been any of us,” said Ms. Regalado, who has lived there for 10 years. “This is nothing new. I’m scared to use the elevator now.”

Department of Buildings records show three open violations for elevator issues. Many other complaints have been filed in the past several years. Wavecrest Management, which oversees maintenance in the residential complex, released the following statement:

We express our sincere condolences, to the family. We, and our elevator company, are actively working with the New York City Department of Buildings and the NYPD to determine the underlying cause of this tragedy.

Brown had come to the Lower East Side to attend a New Year’s Eve party with his girlfriend.