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East Harlem Man in Critical Condition After Legs Crushed in Elevator

By Jeff Mays | December 31, 2012 1:20pm | Updated on December 31, 2012 4:30pm

HARLEM — A man in his 80s is in critical condition at Harlem Hospital after his legs were caught in an elevator at Woodrow Wilson Houses Sunday night.

The man, whom authorities did not name, was transported to Harlem Hospital with a broken leg according to fire officials.

When rescuers arrived after the 5:30 p.m. incident, they found that the man's legs had been caught between the first and second floors. They used tools to free him.

The man lives in a 20-story New York City Housing Authority building at 405 E. 105th Street near First Avenue. Fire officials say they don't know how the incident occurred.

"The New York City Housing Authority is continuing to investigate this incident," said NYCHA spokeswoman Sheila Stainback on Monday afternoon.

Residents at the high-rise say it is rare that both elevators are running smoothly.

NYCHA officials declined to talk about the elevator's safety records. According to the Department of Building's website there were four complaints about the elevators dating back to 2007. The city's Office of Emergency Management requested the DOB examine the elevator after Sunday's incident.

On Monday afternoon, long lines of residents waited to use the single working elevator as a repairmen worked on the elevator where the man's legs were crushed. Several of those waiting where in wheelchairs or walked with canes.

"It was only a matter of time," said resident Joe Morales, who has lived in the building for 31 years, about the accident. "Sometimes you have to camp out here waiting for the elevator."

Fatima Toure, a homemaker who has lived in the building for six years with her five children says her family is fearful of the elevator. The elevator where the accident occurred was particularly scary, she said.

"Sometimes, we go on that elevator and it jumps up and down like it's dancing," she said.

Toure said she wouldn't take the elevator except for her kids' strollers because she lives on a relatively low floor. There are times when she fears visiting relatives who live on the 18th floor of the same building because she's afraid of how she'll get back down to her apartment.

The stairs are filled with urine and feces, she said.

Gloria Robinson, who has lived on the 20th floor of the building for 34 years, said she limits how often she goes out because she has asthma and just had surgery on her hip.

"Sometimes, you have to make friends with someone on a lower floor so you can go to their apartment when the elevators go out," said Robinson. "I go to church and the store. Otherwise, I stay in the house."

The elevator situation has been difficult for the last 15 years, she said.

Morales said NYCHA should repair the elevators once and for all.

"There are elderly people here and people in wheelchairs," he said. "The elevators can't always be broken," he said as he slipped onto the one working elevator.