UPPER EAST SIDE — The elevators in a luxury high-rise apartment complex break down so often that they've become a safety hazard that leaves tenants with three options: walk up dozens of flights of stairs, wait up to 45 minutes for a working lift — or move out.
Ogden CAP Properties, which manages the four 34-story towers at Normandie Court on East 95th Street between Second and Third avenues, announced a project last summer to replace every elevator in the complex because of frequent malfunctions, including cars sporadically plunging down several floors or trapping occupants inside, residents said.
Three of the 12 elevators in the luxury towers — where rents run up to $3,265 for a one-bedroom and amenities include a swimming pool and a gym — were taken offline for renovation four months ago. The remaining ones have broken down on a weekly basis since then because of the extra strain, residents said.
The Department of Buildings issued 11 violations related to the elevators in October and they have not been fixed, records show.
During morning and evening rush hours, more than 30 people sometimes wait in line for a ride. There have been brief times when not even one elevator was working, residents said.
“If one elevator goes offline, it’s a problem, so when two go offline, it’s a disaster,” said Maurice Ross, who's lived in Normandie Court for more than four years.
“My work commute has increased by 45 minutes. People are literally crushed and hanging onto each other. It’s a safety hazard. If someone were to have a heart attack, I don’t know how the paramedics would get up there. It scares me to death. It’s all on faith.”
Residents flooded management with complaints about long wait times and potential safety risks. On Jan. 12, tenants were offered the option to break their lease with no penalty, with new leases priced below market rate, according to Ogden CAP spokesman Fraser Seitel.
“If they can’t put up with the inconvenience — if it’s unbearable — we’re letting tenants break their leases with 30 days notice with no penalty,” Seitel said.
Resident Kate Gumersell got stuck in the Normandie Court elevators twice in the past year, once in February and again in the spring, she said. She was so traumatized, she decided to break her lease and moved out of her apartment in 235 E. 95th St. on Jan. 17, she said.
"[I was] always thinking, will I get stuck again?" Gumersell said in an email. "Because I can say I no longer feel safe utilizing the elevators as the two 'working' ones continue to have issues, I have chosen to move out and endure another situation of moving costs, broker/application/credit check fees and security deposits."
The elevators haven't been renovated since the building was first built 30 years ago and are badly in need of replacement to bring them up to DOB code, Seitel said.
While construction was already underway during the fall, the Department of Buildings issued nine elevator violations for 215 E. 95th St. and two elevator violations at 205 E. 95th St., two of the Normandie Court buildings, on Oct. 16 and 17, according to online records.
DOB spokesman Alex Schnell said the violations were for general compliance issues usually ranging from a broken part to failure to file an annual inspection, but he did not provide specifics. All the violations were still open as of Wednesday.
The elevators were last inspected by the DOB in December and were not deemed imminently hazardous, Schnell said.
The DOB has received three complaints about broken elevators at Normandie Court since then, records show. But under city codes, only one elevator needs to be functioning in buildings that are five stories or taller.
The first three elevators that are being replaced — in 205, 215 and 235 E. 95th St. — are expected to come back online on Jan. 26, as long as they pass DOB inspection, Seitel said. Then, in April, work will begin on one of the elevators in 225 E. 95th St.
Construction on the complex's remaining eight elevators will begin in September, Seitel said.
“This is a necessity," Seitel said. "This has to be done. This is not a luxury. It’s expensive, but part of it is to minimize inconvenience.”
Seitel could not provide the cost of the entire elevator modernization project.
Management has promised to have a staff member in each elevator to bypass floors once a car is full and to have a mechanic on site 24/7 in case of an emergency, Seitel said. Management is also offering tenants three months of free membership at the complex's gym.
“For so many years, one of the elevators is constantly out, so now I think they’re trying to just replace the whole thing,” said Ann Painson, who’s lived in Normandie Court for 27 years.
“Management is doing their best to make things easier for us.”