Two months ago, as many co-op and condo boards were scrambling to install mandated elevator door locks before the year-end deadline, 30-year-old Samuel Waisbren was crushed to death as he exited an elevator in his apartment building in the Kips Bay neighborhood in Manhattan. Three months before the grisly accident, the city’s Department of Buildings had fined the building’s owner nearly $1,300 after inspectors found that a safety feature on one of the elevators had been disabled or tampered with.
Now, a new audit from the Comptroller’s Office in Albany shows that the city isn’t doing all it could to improve elevator safety and comply with safety regulations concerning the more than 1 million buildings and construction sites in New York City, the New York Post reports.
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says the DOB could not provide evidence that its inspectors were completing thorough reviews of the city’s 70,000 elevators. Elevators that fall under DOB’s authority must be inspected and tested annually, either by DOB inspectors or private contractors. The city’s Housing Authority can perform inspections and tests in its buildings; likewise, the MTA inspects and tests its elevators.
“Failure to inspect elevators can be a lethal problem,” says DiNapoli. “Last year, my auditors raised a red flag about poor elevator inspections across New York City, but shockingly, the problems persist. [The DOB] needs to immediately address the problems we found.”
The DOB was unable to prove that re-inspections were thoroughly made after shoddy inspectors were reprimanded in last year’s audit, where the Comptroller’s Office found nearly 15,000 inspections that should have been completed were fudged. City contractors were fined.
The DOB responded: “We have taken the Comptroller’s input seriously and fired two of the inspection contractors named in the original audit.” The DOB also says that it has increased audits of private contractors, required greater training for them, and raised penalties for failure to perform.
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