Citing the death of a Williamsburg resident who tried to flee a broken elevator earlier this month, organizers for the union representing elevator repair workers spoke at a community board meeting Wednesday night to call for stricter regulations for their industry.
"Unfortunately for all of us, New York State is one of the few states that do not require elevator mechanics to be educated, trained and licensed," said Michael Halpin, the organizer for the Elevator Contractors Local Union No. 1. "Right now in New York State anyone can be an elevator mechanic. That's right—anyone."
During the public comment portion of the CB 1 meeting, members of the International Union of Elevator Constructors of NY and NJ described their line of work as being dangerously under-regulated.
P&W Elevator, the maintenance contractor responsible for the elevators at the Espoir on 156 Hope Street, was also the contractor responsible at 41-90 Frame Place in Flushing, the site of an elevator death in August 2014.
According to Halpin, "former workers of P&W have told us that P&W does not provide its employees with formal education and training."
The Department of Buildings has said that a "potential deficiency" in the make of elevator involved in the fatality at the Espoir may have been responsible for the crash; another elevator in the building failed the 125% capacity load test.
In May, Christian Ginesi, an Air Force veteran, fell 24 stories down an elevator shaft in a half-built luxury hotel. Although he was working on the elevator, he did not have any formal elevator education. On Christmas Day in 2010, an elevator accident occurred at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, mangling one woman's leg. The mechanic, Jason Jordan, was untrained by contractor Al-An Elevator, which led to the first conviction of an elevator mechanic in US History. And in December 2011, Suzanne Hart, an ad executive, was crushed in a freak elevator accident.
Williamsburg elevator mechanic Edwin Andujar also spoke about the perils of his work. "I have a dangerous job," Andujar said. "I am exposed to heights, I work on voltages from as little as five volts to as many as 440 volts. I need to hoist heavy equipment and if I am not careful I could be killed or seriously injured by it. I could not imagine the additional hazards that I would face had I not been trained and educated."
Anjuar explained that he had a four-year apprenticeship and had to pass an exam every year, as well as a cumulative mechanics exam, before he could be eligible to perform work. However, this was mandated by his contractor, not by state law.
"When I hear about the tragic death at 156 Hope Street, I can't help but wonder, why doesn't New York require education and licensing of elevator mechanics like the states around us? How many deaths will it take before we finally take a stand for the elevator riding public?"
Training is common for those contractors which are a part of the union. Every few years, the union opens up the apprenticeship to those who want to apply—in 2010, the Daily News shot a video of thousands vying for 750 apprenticeship applications.
Experience and training are also needed to be an elevator mechanic for the City. According to an Elevator Mechanic Exam from September 2011, a mechanic must have at least five years of working experience and receive a 70% or above on a multiple choice test, with preference going to those who score higher on the test. Civil servant mechanics are also subjected to the same requirements as many employees of the state: New York State driver license check, drug screenings, residency requirements, and English language requirement
Halpin and Andujar urged the board members to support new legislation on elevator mechanic form, and later in the meeting, CB 1 passed a non-binding resolution asking the DOB to support the New York State Elevator Safety Bill.
The bill would require mechanics and contractors to be trained before performing any work on elevators in any building. They also resolved to direct the City Council support for a similar bill for the city, Resolution 749.
A spokesperson for the Department of Buildings told us, "City law requires Elevator Agency Directors to be licensed and meet certain qualifications. The mechanics work under the direction of these individuals. The Department enforces the current law."