Broken elevator big problem at high rise

July 9, 2008 3:33:45 PM PDT
Broken elevators are more than just an inconvenience at one West Philadelphia high rise and one resident had enough and called Action News.They're a chronic problem for neighbors who've had to take the stairs in a 19-story building over and over again.

Many of them are senior citizens.

West Park tenants were relieved to see an elevator working this morning.

Residents of the 19-story Philadelphia Housing Authority high rise near 45th and Market Streets say one of two elevators rarely works and the other breaks down a lot. It was reportedly fixed this morning after being out of service all night.

"You can be here 5 minutes and it's fixed and 10 minutes later not working. It's been going on since October last year," resident Elizabeth Wise said.

"This elevator is broken 2, 3, 4 times a day and it's not fair to the community. We need something done," resident Rachelle Bickerstaff said.

Initially PHA stopped Action News from going in with a tenant to see the elevators. When officials realized that was illegal, we went in and saw one being repaired.

Residents say it often takes a long time for repair crews to come out. Climbing the stairs is problematic for people carrying small children or groceries. It's dangerous for residents with certain medical conditions like asthma. Two 19th floor tenants have multiple sclerosis.

One woman, whose knee is shattered, has had to wait outside for hours at a time, unable to get upstairs in her wheelchair.

"Three weekends in a row in June I got stuck outside and had to go to my mothers house," resident Verneta Porterfield said.

PHA officials acknowledge chronic elevator problems here. They contend heavy use, periodic abuse, and recent federal budget cuts are to blame.

"From a mechanical standpoint, we do have major problems with these elevators," Kirk Dorn of the Philadelphia Housing Authority said.

Until recently, PHA high rise buildings had elevator crews on duty 24 hours a day. Now a small staff augmented by a subcontractor handles 16 buildings.

"Fortunately, we have just increased our contracting with the elevator maintenance company and we will have more personnel available to us now to come make these repairs in a hurry," Dorn said.

Residents hope PHA's plan for better elevator repair service is more than just lip service.