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Elevator Violation Blitz! Why Do Multiple Inspectors Find Different "Problems"?

Frank Lovece in Building Operations on May 31, 2012

New York City, 12 W. 67th Street, Upper West Side

Elevator Violation Blitz
May 31, 2012

"The question is very obvious," says Ken Breglio, president of the maintenance firm BP Elevator: "Isn't everybody looking at the same elevator?" The city's elevator code, he says, "is very vague. It's open to interpretation and everybody looks at something differently."

Other condo and co-op board members, building managers and elevator experts report similar experiences. In response to these complaints, Department of Buildings spokesman Tony Sclafani notes that, “On average, an elevator in New York City make 500 trips a day." And so, "Due to this constant use, elevators must be maintained on a regular basis, and new violating conditions can arise between inspections.”

Inspections Down Yet Violations Up

Ironically, the number of elevator inspections themselves are down alarmingly, according to a March 2012 report by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer: From January 2006 through September 2008, the DOB averaged 7,930 inspections a month, but between January 2009 and May 2011, it averaged just 5,723.

But even though inspections are down, professionals say violations appear to be up. That's because "there are more violations per inspection," explains Breglio. "There are more items under the new code that haven't been complied with yet and that allows the inspectors to write up more violating conditions."

To explain the violation blitz, experts point to December 14, 2010, when the city's new "Safety Code for Existing Elevators and Escalators" took effect. That included some radical changes in the way the city reviewed elevators. "[The inspection process] changed absolutely because of the mandates," says Joe Caracappa, vice president of the elevator consultancy the Sierra Consulting Group, and east region director of the International Association of Elevator Consultants.

Little Time to Comply

There's also another problem with increased violations: there isn't a lot of time to correct them. With either Category 1 or 5, you have to file a "ELV36 Elevator/Escalator Test Notification Form" with the DOB 10 calendar days before performing your annual or quinquennial test. Afterward, within 45 calendar days, you have to file the "ELV3 Elevator Inspection/Test Report" with the DOB to record the results. Any defects found during the inspection test must be corrected and the "ELV29 Affirmation of Correction Form" filed within 15 business days of completing repairs.

Are there any provisions for extensions? "The department is aware of the industry's concerns," says DOB spokesman Sclafani, "and we will be working with them to address this issue."


Illustration by Dave Bamundo

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