Project Reform is SOOOOOOOOO Necessary…


You know people talk ish like some of the stuff about housing projects on Good Times and in our books aren’t true, but sadly it is.  What’s worse, Good Times was originally on TV over thirty years ago and the various housing authorities still haven’t figured out how to keep the dang on elevators working. BS.



Early last Tuesday, 5-year-old Jacob Neuman plunged 10 stories to his death while trying to climb out of a stalled elevator in a Williamsburg housing project.

A year earlier – on Aug. 20, 2007 – Lillian Milan died at another Brooklyn project partially because of faulty elevators.

Shockingly – as the city mourns Jacob and demands accountability – residents of the Bushwick Houses say the broken elevators that caused Milan’s death still malfunction.

“These elevators are completely out of control,” said Carlos Rodriguez, 43, a 20-year resident of 140 Moore St., where Milan died. “They stop between floors. They skip floors. Sometimes, you can see the shaft all the way to the bottom when the doors open.”

Milan, an asthmatic, died gasping for air while climbing stairs to her 10th-floor apartment because her building’s two elevators were not running.

Though deaths are rare, elevator malfunctions are not isolated.

Throughout the 343-project Housing Authority system, residents complain of elevators that won’t start or that stall between floors, cars whose doors close too fast or don’t close at all, cars that skip floors or rocket to the bottom.

All told, NYCHA reported 43,762 failures in the system’s 3,300 elevators in fiscal year 2008. While that’s a drop of about 8% from the year before, tenant leaders say some of the elevators are just ticking time bombs.

“This is about people’s lives. You have sick people, elderly people who are at risk,” said Rosia Wyche, head of NYCHA’s resident committee for the Brooklyn South District.

“Sometimes you come into a building and the lobby is full of folks who can’t get up because the elevators aren’t working.”

“I feel trapped,” said Cathy McFadden, a multiple sclerosis patient who lives in the Pelham Parkway Houses in the Bronx, where she says her elevators are out at least twice a week.

McFadden said faulty elevators have caused her to miss doctor appointments and her daughter’s school functions. “But the worst was when my son was found dead in the Hudson River last year and I almost missed the funeral because the elevators were not working,” she said.

NYCHA General Manager Douglas Apple insisted that “98% of the time” when someone pushes the button for an elevator it is running.

Residents scoffed.

“Last weekend, neither elevator in my building was working,” said Louise Bailey, 78, a 30-year resident of Brooklyn’s Farragut Houses. “I had to walk down from the 11th floor.”

“Sometimes the elevator will go up to my floor and then, zoom, it goes right back down to the bottom without the doors ever opening,” said Grace Cook, 57, of the Gowanus Houses. “Sometimes it will skip my floor altogether.”

The Housing Authority said it hired 15 more elevator repairmen, boosting the total to 201, after Milan’s death.

“There is no serious backlog in day-to-day repair” because the agency has increased preventive maintenance by 28%, Apple said. “But in the replacement of aging elevators there is a significant and growing backlog.”

He blamed federal funding cuts. The agency has received about $600 million less in federal operating funds and $450 million less in capital projects, including elevator replacement.

“We have almost $6 billion in unmet capital needs, which means we are replacing only about one-third of the things that need replacement,” Apple said.

He noted that the elevator that stalled in Jacob Neuman’s building was scheduled to be replaced in 2004, but, because of funding deficits, is listed for 2009. It failed its last inspection and malfunctioned five times since February.

Two days after Jacob’s death, several city lawmakers demanded NYCHA do a “full internal audit” of housing-project elevators.

“People are afraid,” said Raymond Ballard, who represents tenants in 27 Brooklyn projects, including Taylor Street-Wythe Avenue, where Jacob died. “I understand that the agency has budget problems, but safe elevators are paramount. This is about life.”