Nov 12, 2018

The El-Evaders

A TransitCenter review of MTA/New York City Transit elevator performance data found that eight of New York City’s wealthiest real estate owners are shirking their legal obligation to maintain and operate their subway station elevators at stations adjacent to their properties.

From January to June 2018, the nine worst performing privately-controlled elevators in the subway were in service only 81% of the time. That may sound like a passing grade, but that availability translates to 301 days of outages, or 33 days per elevator in justthe first half of the year. The performance of these elevators is so bad it makes the MTA-maintained elevators look impressive by comparison, which themselves need major improvement. 

Onexim owns the worst performer, an elevator that serves the 40,000 daily commuters at Barclays Center-Atlantic Avenue station, home to 10 subway lines and L.I.R.R. commuter rail. That elevator was operational a pathetic 52% of the time – barely more than a coin toss – for 88 days of outages. The eight other elevators serve stations adjacent to luxury condominiums and multi-million-dollar office towers, including Times Square Intercontinental Hotel, 7 Bryant Park, 400 Park Avenue South, Two Court Square, Resorts World Casino, 3 Bryant Park, and 100 Willoughby Street.

In a subway system with more than 75% of stations that lack ADA accessible entry, the failure of a single elevator is a severe blow to the travel ability of hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities, seniors and anyone who cannot navigate stairs. To make matters worse, these privately-owned elevators service some of the busiest and most vital stations in the subway system.

These developers have been granted license to build taller buildings than what the zoning code allows in exchange for an agreement to build and maintain elevators. That they are reaping financial rewards while thousands of commuters are left stranded is unconscionable. 

We’re calling on building owners to start maintaining station elevators just like they would maintain elevators in their own buildings. Elevators to the Barclays Arena private boxes probably aren’t broken half the time. Bryant Park’s corporate clients don’t have to work from home because all the building elevators are broken. Why should an elevator used by thousands of seniors and people with disabilities every day to get a to work be any less important?

New York City Transit also needs to hold real estate developers accountable for their delinquent elevators. Charge them $1,000, $10,000, or $100,000 every day an elevator is out of service — whatever it takes to affect their bottom line. The MTA can’t fix its subway accessibility crisis if it’s unable to reign in these bad actors, and it show it can execute basic contracts if it wants Albany to open its wallet with money to fix our subway.

Check out the numbers for yourself:

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