Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed years-in-the-waiting legislation calling for state oversight of New York's elevator industry, including the creation of an appointed advisory board that would establish license requirements and standards for elevator contractors, mechanics, and inspectors.
"Millions of New Yorkers rely on elevators to get safely to and from work, school and home, and for many disabled New Yorkers it is their only means of access," Cuomo said, in a statement. "For too long unsafe and defective elevators have led to unnecessary injuries and even deaths, and this new law will help ensure all individuals working with elevators have the proper training and credentials to make sure these machines meet the safety standards necessary to provide reliable service."
New York now joins the more than other 30 states that currently mandate licensing for elevator contractors, including those involved in design and construction as well as repair.
The law comes amid growing concerns over the safety of the tens of thousands of elevators in New York City whose maintenance is overseen by Department of Building inspectors. Altogether, there are more than 70,000 elevators and escalators citywide, according to the DOB. In one of the most gruesome accidents in recent memory, Kips Bay resident Samuel Waisbren, 30, was crushed to death in August after he tried to climb out of a stuck elevator at his apartment building. Following the incident, it was reported that his building at 344 Third Avenue had a history of problems with its elevators and had been fined a few months earlier by the city for unsafe elevator conditions.
Back in January, a seven-month investigation by The Real Deal revealed that at least 22 people were killed in elevators in New York City from 2010 to 2018, and 48 more seriously injured. The story said the DOB has struggled to ensure compliance and that elevator mechanics can get work with little training.
As of last week, it was uncertain whether the governor would sign the bill, an earlier version of which had languished in the Republican-controlled Senate for years and faced resistance from the real estate industry. A New York Post story reported that Cuomo’s office had questions about the bill and that legislators were working with his office to hammer out the issues.
On Thursday, State Senator Diane Savino, the Democrat sponsoring the bill, thanked Cuomo for "recognizing the urgency" of the bill.
"The Elevator Safety Act will transform elevator safety in New York State by setting minimum education and training standards for elevator mechanics. New York State has 10 percent of all the elevators in this country and this commonsense law will protect the safety of New Yorkers," she said in the governor's press release.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has in the past opposed an earlier version of the legislation, arguing that it created an unnecessary "duplicative" layer of regulations.
Julia Arredondo, a spokesperson for the mayor, said on Thursday that the administration was in support of the latest bill.
“The Elevator Safety Act will strengthen the qualifications of those performing elevator work, allow us to hold bad actors accountable, and promote safety in the City of New York," Arrendondo said in a statement.