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Some Elevator Service Resumes at Coney Island Complex, But Many Still Stuck

By  Janet Upadhye and Ben Fractenberg | November 9, 2012 7:15am 

CONEY ISLAND — Partial elevator service has been restored at a Coney Island housing development — but 10 days after Hurricane Sandy hit, some residents are still unable to leave their apartments.

Seven-year-old Schania Barnett was supposed to start school last week, but instead has been confined to the living room of her apartment in the Ocean Towers complex on West 24th Street and Surf Avenue. Without a functioning elevator, the young girl who uses a wheelchair cannot leave.  She spends her days watching movies online and being homeschooled by her mother, Cherry Barnett, 43.

Schania says she misses going to the store and seeing the birds outside, and her mother worries about her lack of fresh air.

“I don’t want my kids living like this,” Barnett said. “I don’t feel human.”

Elevators in the middle tower are functioning, but residents in the two other towers have to take the elevator up to the roof, then cross over and walk down the stairs — something some elderly and disabled people like Schania, are not able to do.

Paulette Biggs, a representative of the management company who works in the building, said that there was no timeline for restoration of full elevator service.

"They are severely damaged. There was like 16 feet of water,” Biggs said. "We are working tirelessly."

Biggs said the private repair company Infinity has been working on the elevators, but the amount of flood damage has hindered its ability to make quick repairs.

A call to the company was no returned.

A sign posted near the elevators reads: "All elevators are out of service due to water damage from the storm, service will be back ASAP."

Meanwhile, Bonnie Kirshtein, 66, has also been trapped in her apartment since the storm. Kirshtein uses a walker and cannot take the stairs. She has not been back to work in more than a week.

“I have to go to work,” she said. “I am getting stir-crazy.”

According to Schania’s mother, her school has been understanding of her lack of attendance. But Barnett is eager for Schania to be around other children.

But the 7-year-old seems to be taking her confinement in stride. With a shy smile, she held a small plastic doll with tangled brown hair.

“She’s my favorite,” Schania said.