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Firefighters rescue nine people from rickety lift in Bronx tower

 

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Elderly, handicapped residents of 1380 University Ave. trapped in homes by faulty elevatorsTenant Association president Barbara Williamson  is confined to her apartment when the elevators frequently aren’t working.

RICHARD HARBUS/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Tenant Association president Barbara Williamson is confined to her apartment when the elevators frequently aren’t working.

At a Highbridge building where heat, hot water and elevators have been unreliable for years, nine riders of the rickety lift got the fright of their lives.

Jacki Colon said her son was a passenger on the packed elevator at about 4 p.m. Tuesday when it suddenly shot up to the 18th floor, then started to descend. Fire officials said they evacuated the people from the car as it hung between two floors. 1380 University Ave. has been deemed one of the city’s ten worst buildings for elevator violations.

“As they were forcing the door open, the car kept dropping,” Colon said. “This is horrible. It’s like they’re just waiting for someone to die.”

Before the malfunction, just one elevator worked in the 18-story private building at 1380 University Ave. Now neither elevator works. The 144 families, including elderly and handicapped people, either take the stairs or stay home.

The city Department of Buildings has added the address to its Top 10 Elevator Offenders List, said Gloria Chin, Buildings’ deputy press secretary.

“They are No. 9,” Chin said. Owners University Residence Corp. received 10 elevator violations in 2012, totaling $3,000 in fines. Buildings has also begun criminal action against the owner, Chin said.

Inspectors from the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development are monitoring heat repairs, and HPD has issued 437 violations, also for peeling paint, cracked plaster, mold, leaks, and broken windows.

Residents of the high-rise struggled for years to get landlord Martin Carlin to make repairs. Then in June, a foreclosure process began as New York Community Bank moved to sell the $17.5 million mortgage to Workforce Housing Advisors.

In November more than 40 tenants rallied before the office of the building’s court-appointed receiver, attorney Edmond Pryor, demanding repairs and rent abatement. Pryor and Workforce’s founding member, John Crotty, a former housing official under Mayor Bloomberg, did not return calls seeking comment.

“The tenants are dealing with years of neglect from a bad landlord,” said Susanna Blankley, an organizer for Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA). “We hope their organizing efforts will see a better day soon.”

Tenants are prisoners in their homes because they never know when the elevators will function, said Barbara Williamson, 63, tenant association president.

“We understand it’s a result of the old negligence, however, we expect the companies that do get repairs done will get them done and not keep coming back because everything breaks down days afterward,” Williamson said. “Yesterday was a situation where people honestly could have gotten hurt badly if that elevator had slipped any further.”

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