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Building Where Man Was Crushed To Death By Elevator Has Been Fined (Again)

Samuel Charles Waisbren
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Samuel Charles Waisbren Handout

On Thursday, a man was killed after he was pinned by an elevator in a Manhattan apartment building. It's since emerged that the building in question, the Manhattan Promenade, had a history of problems with its elevators, and had recently been fined by the city for unsafe elevator conditions.

Samuel Charles Waisbren, 30, was riding one of the elevators down to the lobby of his 23-floor building, located at 344 Third Avenue near East 26th Street in Kips Bay, around 8:30 a.m. on Thursday when the incident happened. Three other people were able to exit the elevator before it suddenly started to plummet. Waisbren got caught between the first floor and basement; he was crushed by the elevator against a shaft wall and died at the scene.

"He literally was trying to climb out onto the floor while the elevator was still [moving down]," a building worker, who witnessed the death, told the Post (warning: the Post has graphic surveillance footage of the moment). "His initial reaction was to put his arm out... so he could get off. At that point, the elevator took him down. Jumping out [of] the car while it’s still moving, you just don’t want to do it... It’s awful."

Inspectors with the Buildings Department are investigating the death.

"It’s hard to see how you can go on living when such a big thing is taken from you," the victim’s father, Dr. Charles Waisbren, told the Daily News. "Sam was an absolutely wonderful young man. Smart and loving and very, very sensitive. He had his whole life ahead of him."

According to the Times, residents at the building had long complained about the conditions of its two elevators, which serviced 183 apartments. "It was a point of constant consternation," the victim's father said about the elevators. Dayna Sargen, another resident of the building, told the News, "There’s always something wrong with the elevators. They’re always down, people are getting stuck."

In May, the city’s Department of Buildings fined the building after inspectors found that a safety feature on one of the elevators had been disabled or tampered with. The building was ordered to stop using that elevator until it was fixed. That elevator was apparently not in use on the day of the incident. The building was fined again yesterday for failure to certify the "hazardous ECB violation." (An OATH/ECB violation is issued by the DOB when a property does not comply with a part of the city's Construction Codes and or Zoning Resolution.)

The Times adds:

ATA Enterprises, which manages the building, did not respond to a voice mail message seeking comment. A nearby apartment building operated by same company, at 220 East 25th Street, has also received citations for unsafe elevator conditions, including for uneven doors.

The building’s management company was issued a work permit a month ago to an elevator repair company to fix wiring on both elevators, according to city records. The city was looking into that permit on Thursday, including what repairs it entailed, and whether that work had been completed.

The repair company, American Elevator & Machine Corporation, could not be reached for comment. City inspectors also remained at the building on Thursday evening to oversee repairs on the second elevator and to make sure it was safe for residents to use again.

In May, the Elevator Safety Act—which would set minimum education and training standards for elevator mechanics, and also create an Elevator Contractors License and an Elevator Safety and Standards Board—was passed by both houses of the New York State Legislature (it has yet to be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo). The International Union of Elevator Constructors, who pushed for the legislation, issued a statement about yesterday's event: "Today's accident is unfortunately just the latest example in a series of tragedies involving elevators in New York State over the last several years, and our hearts go out to the victim’s family at this difficult time. We can’t let another innocent person die as a result of improper training. It is time for New York to join more than 30 other states that already have strong elevator safety laws."

Bruce Kaye, an attorney for Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson who has experience working on cases against the Housing Authority and against privately owned and operated elevator operation systems, told Gothamist that the building has failed city inspections at least seven times in the last decade and has wracked up dozens of violations. "In this case, I think it's outrageous that the tenant complaints didn't get the attention of either the building owner or the maintenance company," he said. "The tenants are the eyes and ears of the building, they have to listen to them. Having to manually close a sliding door should have been a red flag."

He continued, "I think it's totally unacceptable anyone can be killed in an elevator in NYC in 2019. This is a completely preventable task." He added that while the Elevator Safety Act is a good start, there also needs to be some legislation "directed toward the age of the cars, the age of the pulley system."

Since 2010, 22 people have lost their lives in New York "due to irresponsible elevator maintenance and operations," according to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

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