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City Replaces Its Elevator Director in Wake of Fatal Elevator Accident

By Eddie Small | April 15, 2016 2:01pm | Updated on April 17, 2016 4:59pm
 NYCHA has replaced its director of elevators following a fatal accident at the agency's Boston Road Plaza senior building.
NYCHA has replaced its director of elevators following a fatal accident at the agency's Boston Road Plaza senior building.
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NEW YORK — NYCHA demoted, but did not fire, its director of elevators in the wake of a deadly accident at the agency's Boston Road Plaza senior building in The Bronx that killed an 84-year-old man.

Director of Elevators Ken Buny has been relieved of his duties and replaced by Ivo Nikolic, who previously worked as the director of NYCHA's material management department and will serve as its interim acting director of elevators as the agency looks for a permanent replacement.

The move comes after a scathing report from the city's Department of Investigation that found "numerous failures" in NYCHA's elevator system and in its response to a complaint about the elevator in the Boston Road Plaza senior building that killed Olegario Pabon in late December last year.

Pabon entered the building's elevator on Dec. 24, but it drifted up as he tried to get on, catching his leg and hand and causing him to fall out. He died of his injuries just a few days later.

The DOI found that a building resident had called NYCHA 90 minutes earlier to report a "very dangerous" malfunctioning elevator, but the agency did not do anything about it until Dec. 28.

The caretaker for the building told investigators that he did not discuss the accident with the assistant superintendent right away, saying that he "was not paying it no mind" and "was just looking to go home," according to the report.

A similar incident occurred at Morris Houses in The Bronx less than a month earlier, when a resident suffered a fractured leg after getting his foot stuck in an elevator door for more than an hour.

The DOI referred 10 employees to NYCHA for discipline in its report, including the agency's elevator director, and the agency has filed disciplinary charges against and reassigned five of them.

Buny did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

However, the agency's Employee Disciplinary Division found that there was no basis to proceed with charges against the five others.

NYCHA will also start escalating any life-threatening elevator conditions flagged by its Customer Contact Center to 911 status for a fire department response and require all elevator dispatch staff to share notes in complaints with the elevator mechanic.

The City Council's Public Housing Committee had planned to question NYCHA about its problems with elevator safety at a hearing on Friday morning, but the hearing has been postponed and will likely not take place until the summer.

“These incidents undermine all of the improvements we are trying to make at NYCHA,” NYCHA General Manager Michael Kelly said in a statement. “Over the past year, I’ve worked with Chair [Shola] Olatoye to change how the Authority does business and reset relationships with both employees and residents that have strained over the years."