New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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New Elevator Code

Sept. 7, 2010 — There are 60,000 elevators in this big city, and many older ones in co-ops and condos will run afoul of the law on December 14, the deadline for complying with the city's new "Safety Code for Existing Elevators and Escalators."

What? Another major elevator-code revamp after the one in 2008? Co-op and condo boards and property managers can be excused for moaning, "WTF?!"

In years past, co-ops, condos and other buildings required service companies to perform elevator inspections once every two years, with city inspectors checking randomly to make sure the work was done properly.

Now, thanks to several highly publicized accidents, all elevators must be inspected once a year, and the building's owner — or the co-op or condo board — must hire a third party to conduct a "witness test" of the elevator company's work. The added annual cost for the tests at one large co-op in Queens was $30,000. (See the Habitat article "Unfunded Mandates: Why Other People's Problems Add to Co-op & Condo Costs")

After New York City's building code was revised in 2008, city regulation writers pored over elevator regulations in the International Building Code of the International Code Council to determine what to keep in our code, what to modify and what to throw out. They finished their work last December and gave buildings owners one year to comply. Hence, the looming December 14 deadline.

Three Top Requirements

"The first place most buildings are going to have to do work is on older service and passenger elevators," says Scott Hayes, president of the elevator consulting firm Hubert H. Hayes, Inc. "The most important thing is the requirement for a safety bracket on all horizontally sliding doors. The new code requires that there be two guides on every door panel and a third safety bracket. The reason is that people have fallen through these doors and fallen down the shafts."

The cost for these safety measures can run up to $200 per elevator door, according to Hayes. For high-rise buildings with multiple elevators, the cash outlay will be significant. In addition, says Hayes, another new requirement involves what's called the 'pit' at the bottom of the elevator shaft, "the area where workers do maintenance work. A lot of older elevators don't have a pit-stop switch, which automatically immobilizes the elevator when someone is in the pit. Now it's required."

A third requirement is that all elevators be equipped with a "fire recall" system, which enables firefighters to control the elevator in the event of a fire. Retrofitting an old elevator with the complicated system might be less cost-effective than replacing the elevator.

Start Spreading the News

With the clock ticking for buildings to comply, co-op and condo boards are running out of time. Hayes, who performs elevator consulting work for some 200 buildings in the city, believes that many boards and property managers are still not even aware of it.
"Somebody has to tell them," Hayes says, "or the city's going to come in this December and start writing violations. A lot of elevator companies didn't catch on until a few months after this law was passed in December of 2009. Some elevator companies are in a routine and they're slow to pick up on new requirements. The bigger ones have a staff to keep up with these things, but the smaller ones don't always do that. The Department of Buildings (DOB) has done a pretty good job of informing people in the industry, but you have to know where to look."
One valuable source has been the Elevator Conference of New York, a non-profit group of elevator company owners, suppliers, mechanics, and consultants. "We've run seminars, and we're trying to get the industry and the city on the same page," says Kenny Breglio, president of the conference and president of BP Elevator. "The city has done a pretty good job at the seminars, giving presentations and handouts. It's a massive job."

How Boards Are Taking It

There are many reasons it's such a huge undertaking. First, there's the sheer number of elevators in the city. Then, there's the fact that New York is way behind the rest of the country, where such codes already are in place. And finally, says Breglio, "The reason the city finally made the change was that buildings would get violations and not make repairs. Now a lot of elevators are going to have to be modernized."

Since the new rules went into effect last December, Breglio has seen a wide array of reactions. "Some [co-op/condo boards] are receptive, and some don't want to hear it, because it's not cheap. People think elevator companies are going to get rich, but I'm making more enemies than money. I've got customers who said, they're going to wait and see what the fines are. They don't have the money and they don't know if the new rules are going to be enforced."

Next page >> What's the DOB say about all this?

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