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Balky Elevators Turn Luxury Tower Into "High-Rise Hell"

Financial District, Manhattan

Elevator breakdowns, co-ops and condos, high-rise hell, Con Edison, power surges.
April 1, 2022

You say the elevators in your co-op or condo are slow? Or they make funny noises? Or, once, one of them broke down and was out of service for two whole days? Count your lucky stars.

At the 59-story Art Deco tower in the Financial District at 20 Exchange Place, a former bank that was converted into 750 apartments with luxury amenities and stunning harbor views, elevator outages have turned the building into "high-rise hell," according to one resident. Since November, The New York Times reports, the skyscraper has been plagued by long elevator outages that have turned daily life upside down and trapped residents with mobility issues inside their apartments. Elevator service is unpredictable and often nonexistent, for hours at a time above the 15th floor. The elevators that service only the lower floors have continued to work, even as the outages in the others have grown more frequent in the last two months.

At 20 Exchange Place, the sheer height of the building has made the persistent outages particularly infuriating for residents, who can pay as much as $5,000 a month for a market-rate one-bedroom unit. In interviews and emails, more than a dozen residents told the Times about how they have reorganized their lives as a result. They have canceled plans, missed appointments, been late for work, ditched heavy strollers, contemplated moving. 

“Our lives completely changed the moment these elevators stopped working,” said Faisal Al Mutar, 30, who lives in a studio on the 22nd floor.

The building’s owners, DTH Capital, say that Con Edison must step in to resolve the problems, which they maintain are likely related to electrical surges from Con Edison equipment. The owners say they have hired teams with elevator, electrical and engineering expertise to get to the bottom of the problem, which is affecting eight elevators. Con Edison, in turn, says it has conducted extensive testing at the building and found “no indication that our power supply is deficient or compromised.”

Erin Campbell, a 28-year-old nurse, was excited to find a “Covid deal” for a two-year lease for an apartment with water views on the 48th floor at 20 Exchange Place. Then the elevators started breaking down, leaving her stranded after long shifts on her feet.

“I’m a nurse, I have no choice: I have to go to work,” she said, recounting how often she returns home only to learn that the elevators are out. After a recent 12-hour shift, she came home at 8:30 p.m. and was told by doormen that service to her floor would probably not be restored until about 11 p.m.

“I just started crying,” she recalled. “I’m a young, in-shape person, so I can do it. But it’s miserable.”

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