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Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



The Elderly and Elevators

Linden Towers No. 6 is a Queens co-op with 135 units in a pair of six-story buildings, each serviced by a single elevator. When the co-op board set out to replace both aged elevators this past summer, it worked hard to minimize inconvenience for shareholders. 

To avoid running up hotels bills to house residents during the elevator jobs, the board hired extra staff. If shareholders needed assistance – lifting packages or carrying groceries, for instance – they were instructed to call a special phone number that would be answered by the new staff, which was onsite eight hours on weekdays and six hours on weekends. “They were getting about $15 an hour,” says Marty Bender, the board’s secretary. “It cost an extra $7,000. But when you’re spending $250,000, what’s an extra 7?”

The board also planned far in advance. “We gave everyone over four months’ notice,” Bender says. “We said, ‘There are 56 days involved in this. If you can stay with family or friends for any amount of that time, it would be best.’ Because we gave them
so much notice, many were able to make arrangements. At the same time, we asked everyone to help out their neighbors who remained, especially the elderly ones.” Nonetheless, Bender admits that going up and down the stairs was tough. “There’s no getting around it. We also put chairs on every landing and made water available.” One of the big issues was food. “We advised people months in advance to stock up now,” says Bender. “We also contacted local food deliverers and gave out information to the shareholders, saying, ‘You can call these people.’” 

If possible, Bender says, elevator shutdowns should take place in the spring or the fall, not in the blistering heat of summer or the numbing cold of winter. “The reason we had to start it in May, even though we didn’t want to, was [because] we had commissioned a study,” he says. That study confirmed that the board was doing the right thing. “These elevators are 55, 56 years old,” says Bender. “That’s long past the shelf life of a normal elevator. The work needed to be done.”

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