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After Lower East Side Death, A New Push For Elevator Safety Legislation

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State elected officials are hoping some good can come from the death of 25-year-old Stephen Hewett-Brown, who was crushed New Year’s Eve in an elevator accident on the Lower East Side.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron and Assemblyman Keith Wright renewed a push earlier today for passage of elevator safety legislation. The bill, which would mandate proper training for elevator repairman and require licensing, has been passed by the Assembly four times. Even though it has 40 sponsors, the Senate Majority Leader has blocked a vote.

Last Thursday night’s accident happened at 131 Broome St., part of the Grand Street Guild apartment complex. Brown had just pushed a resident of the building to safety on the third floor when the cab slammed down and trapped the aspiring musician from the Bronx. Residents of the complex have been complaining for years about safety problems with the elevators.

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Squadron, who represents, the Lower East Side, and Wright were joined by members of the tenant association, community leaders, representatives of the International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 1 and other labor groups.

In the wake of the recent tragedy, said Squadron, there’s an urgent need for action on the legislation. “The death of Stephen Hewett-Brown is a reminder of the need for common-sense standards for elevator work,” he added. Wright (a Harlem Democrat) sponsored the Elevator safety Act with Republican Sen. John Bonacic. Squadron is a co-sponsor. “It is shocking and unthinkable that New York State doesn’t do everything possible to protect the safety of its residents,” said Wright. “To think that the tragic death of Mr. Hewitt-Brown could have been avoided with proper elevator upkeep by licensed professionals is more than enough reason to take action today and pass (the legislation).”

In November, the Post reported that the de Blasio administration opposes the state bill:

Administration officials said a state law is unnecessary because the city’s Buildings Department already has strong elevator- licensing regulations and oversight, and data show elevator use has become safer. There were 50 mostly minor elevator accidents last year, down from 105 accidents in 2007 — a 52 percent reduction, city officials said. Under city rules, building owners are required to hire a Buildings Department-licensed “elevator agency director” with 10 years of experience handling elevators. Elevator inspectors working under the director are also licensed. “Creating another layer of regulation through a state license issued by an agency [the state Labor Department] with no experience regulating the elevator industry is duplicative, serves only to confuse, and does not constitute sound public policy,” said the mayor’s Albany legislative director, Sherif Soliman.

Earlier this week, Grand Street Guild Management told The Lo-Down that a 2012 modernization of the elevators was “overseen by an independent elevator consultant and licensed architectural firm.” Jay Yablonsky of Wavecrest Management added that the work was “signed off by both HUD (which funded building renovations) and the New York City Department of Buildings.” Alexander Schnell, Buildings Department spokesperson, told us, “Accidents like this are extremely rare. The city’s elevators make billions of passenger trips every year without incident.”

An investigation into what caused the accident is ongoing.


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