April 22, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – The union representing elevator mechanics and technicians is accusing the de Blasio administration of continuing to stand in the way of safety reforms that could help prevent a growing number of horrific elevator accidents around the city — some deadly.
Just last week, a 54-year-old elevator mechanic named Igor Begun was killed in Coney Island while trying to repair service inside a NYCHA building located on West 25th Street.
The tragic death follows a number of other serious accidents and deaths in recent years involving both passengers and technicians.
“This lethal threat would be troubling enough on its own,” Local 1 IUEC spokesperson Michael Halpin told the New York City Council Committee on Housing this week. “But the problem is compounded by the fact that the Administration and the Department of Buildings have actually blocked the solution! There is state legislation—the Elevator Safety Act—which would help to reduce passenger and worker accidents. Unfortunately, the administration and the Department of Buildings currently stand in the way of this commonsense, life-saving bill.”
Councilmember James Vacca [D-District 13] has also introduced legislation at the city level designed to help thwart future accidents. Although weaker, Vacca’s legislation and legislation in the State Legislature, both seek to require elevator mechanics and technicians to undergo apprentice training and attain licenses.
Thirty-five states around the country require elevator technicians to be individually licensed — New York does not.
“We work in an area with the highest concentration of elevators, soaring to the greatest heights at the fastest speeds, yet those who are responsible to do the installation and repairs and perform the maintenance are not required to be educated and trained to any standard,” Halpin continued. “Some 34 states and the District of Columbia already have such standards. They realize that their residents’ lives do not belong in untrained hands when it comes to vertical transportation.”
A statewide elevator safety bill has passed the New York State Assembly four times since 2012 — only to fail each time it reached the Republican-controlled State Senate. Advocates of the Elevator Safety Act are confident that they will be more successful this year, and Governor Andrew Cuomo has already said he will sign the bill, if and when, it gets to his desk.
“The Administration and the Department of Buildings oppose giving New Yorkers the kind of safeguards those states already have in place,” Halpin added. “Their troubling opposition is sadly uninformed. In one opposition memo from the City of New York they state, and I quote, ‘Elevator Mechanics are required to receive a license from the DOB in order to perform maintenance work on elevators in New York City.’ That is false. The Administration didn’t even know that the City doesn’t license elevator mechanics.”
According to FDNY statistics, there has been a 160 percent rise in incidents where passengers in failed elevators required rescue over the past five years.