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It’s Crunch Time for Elevators

Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks on January 9, 2019

Woodside, Queens

Single Elevator Fixes

The logistics of a shutdown are always more complicated in a single-elevator building.

Jan. 9, 2019

The crunch has arrived. The co-op boards at a couple of seven-story, one-elevator buildings – one in Greenwich Village, the other in Woodside, Queens – have made major decisions on elevator upgrades that many of their colleagues across the city will soon have to face. 

“It’s all driven by the new regulations,” says Donna Anderson, senior property manager at Vanderbilt Property Management, who works with the co-op boards in both of the 70-unit buildings. “Local Laws have taken over everybody’s life.” 

She’s referring to a new city rule that requires all elevators to be equipped with an electronic fix that accomplishes two things: it prevents the elevator from moving if the doors are not properly closed; and it prevents the doors from opening if the elevator cab is not present. The deadline for compliance is January 1, 2020. A second upgrade, due by January 1, 2027, requires installation of an emergency brake

The Greenwich Village and Woodside co-ops are post-war buildings still using their original elevators, which are showing their age. The question facing the boards was tricky: do we comply with the first law now, at a cost that could range from $3,000 to $25,000, and try to get a few more years of service out of the aging elevator; or do we go ahead and modernize the elevator and put compliance challenges behind us? 

Both boards chose the latter course and are getting ready to spend about $200,000 apiece on modernization of the mechanicals and cab interiors on their traction elevators, which use motorized cables. Both jobs will be paid for through an assessment and an increase in monthly maintenance. The discussion that led to those recent decisions began last summer. 

“Every board has its own personality and forms of communication,” Anderson says. “Both of these boards have been steadily informing people that this is coming. With large capital projects like this, the board stands up in front of the community at the annual meeting and tells them what’s coming. From the first conversation, the boards talked about how we’re going to handle the shutdown and make it as easy as possible on all residents. Even in the best-case scenario, the elevator will be out of service for eight to twelve weeks.” 

Once the decision was made to modernize, Anderson turned to Vanderbilt’s go-to elevator company, Sierra Consulting Group. “They’re excellent,” she says. “They were familiar with both elevators, and they prepared the scope of work and solicited a minimum of five bids. They sat in when the board interviewed contractors.” The Woodside board hired BP Elevator, while the Village board, which got side-tracked by a window replacement project, is still mulling its decision. 

The boards’ challenges now are logistical, always more complicated in buildings with a single elevator. “If anyone has trouble getting up and down the stairs, we tell them this is the time to arrange to live with family or friends or go on vacation,” Anderson says. She’s also working to get one designated volunteer per floor who will check with neighbors during the shutdown to see if they need something from the store or need help carrying something up the stairs. That something will not include human beings. 

“I know a super who has carried people up and down stairs during an elevator shutdown,” Anderson says. “I don’t recommend that. Somebody could get hurt.” 

What she does recommend is that boards communicate with residents and that they hire the right contractors for the job. “Include all residents as early as possible,” she advises. “Let them know it’s a requirement – and it’s something the building can get through. Being in constant communication with shareholders is crucial. So is hiring contractors who you can talk to and who will listen to your needs. It’s not just about dollars.” 

PRINCIPAL PLAYERS – CONSULTANT: Sierra Consulting Group. CONTRACTOR: BP Elevator. MANAGEMENT: Vanderbilt Property Management.  

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