The residents of a Lower East Side housing complex plagued with serious maintenance problems are once again without elevator service.
Last night, tenants gathered in the lobby of the Grand Street Guild apartments at 460 Grand St., waiting for limited service to be restored. The three elevators in the building have been malfunctioning, off and on, for the past week. Among those stranded was 10th floor resident Lilly Quinones, the mother of two young children, ages one year and 7-months. She’s been forced to trudge up the stairs with the kids and two strollers this week.
Another building in the complex was the scene of a tragic elevator accident in January of 2016 that took the life of 25-year-old Stephen Hewett-Brown. Since the accident, residents say, stalled elevators have been commonplace in the buildings. This past fall, gas service was shut off to hundreds of apartments for a two month period.
Tenant Association President Daisy Paez said the elevator situation has been stressful for residents. “The seniors can’t go up the stairs, so they become hostages in their own homes,” she told us. “Living like this is totally unacceptable.”
City Council member Margaret Chin contacted the city’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD). The agency is sending a crew over to investigate the situation at Grand Street Guild. She’s also been in touch with the Department of Buildings, which oversees elevator safety at the complex.
One elevator is now being operated manually by a building staff member, but it only goes up to the 10th floor of the 26 story building. “I want to help fix this problem,” Chin said in a phone interview today. “It’s unacceptable, especially considering that the elevators were supposedly renovated” during a $60 million, federally-funded face lift the complex underwent in 2012. “The building has all of these problems after an expensive renovation,” said Chin. “Government invested a lot of money. We want to know what’s going on.”
During the gas shutdown this past October, Chin and other elected officials wrote to the regional administrator of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development about “persistent safety concerns” at the complex. The property is a Section 8 development and, therefore, under HUD’s purview. The elevator and gas issues, they wrote, have “called into question the quality of recent renovations at the complex, and merit a full and timely investigation…”
In a reply, Holly Leight, the regional administrator, said, “HUD shares your concerns about the maintenance and safety issues at the development, and our staff is working closely with Wavecrest Management (which runs the complex) to ensure that problems are addressed quickly and thoroughly.” Leight also said that a HUD inspector reviewed the elevators in the complex and found them all to be in working order. Chin told us today that she hopes to set up a meeting with HUD to discuss the problems at Grand Street Guild.
Daisy Paez, the tenant association president, is calling on Wavecrest to replace its contractor, North American Elevator. “With all of the elevator problems we have had,” she said, they’ve got to be replaced… If management keeps this company, they are doing absolutely nothing (to remedy the situation).”
We have put a call in to Wavecrest Management. We’ll let you know if the company responds.
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.
UPDATE 5:04 p.m. HPD has informed Council member Chin that one elevator has now been returned to normal service. The remaining two elevators are expected to be working in next 90 minutes. Management is saying staff will be available during the weekend to make sure the elevators are operating properly. According to a spokesperson for Chin, the Department of Buildings has an inspection team on site. Elected officials and building representatives are planning to meet next week to discuss repair issues.
UPDATE 5:41 p.m. Here’s the latest from the Department of Buildings. All three elevators are now working. DOB inspectors are on the scene to make sure they’re operating properly. The elevators were last inspected April 19, 2016 and no violations were found. Following today’s inspection, a spokesperson said, it will be determined whether enforcement actions are warranted against the property owner.