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Climate of Indifference Among NYCHA Workers Led to Elevator Death: Manager

By Ben Fractenberg | April 21, 2016 5:18pm
 City Council Members grilled NYCHA leaders Thursday during a hearing into the state of public housing elevators, April 21, 2016. 
NYCHA City Council Hearing
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CIVIC CENTER — A culture of complacency among NYCHA workers at a Bronx senior home created a climate that led to an elevator accident that killed an elderly man, an agency official said Thursday.

New York City Housing Authority Manager Michael Kelly testified before a City Council committee that many workers held a “dismissive way of thinking” at the Boston Road Plaza group home in Pelham Parkway, The Bronx.

They told investigators that "it's not my job" or "I just wanted to go home" when asked why they did not do more to address complaints about the elevator that killed 84-year-old Olegario Pabon, Kelly said.

A scathing Department of Investigation report found "numerous failures" in NYCHA's elevator system and response to complaints.

“If we have to shake [NYCHA] upside down, we have to shake [NYCHA] upside down,” said Vacca, whose district covers Boston Road Plaza.

“Those who don’t get with the program have to get out.”

Vacca also said that he knew Pabon, who he described as a "very nice man" who had been "caring for a very sickly wife for very long time."

Council Members also showed photos of brake monitor wires in the Boston Road elevator improperly connected.  

An NYCHA elevator mechanic was also fatally electrocuted in a Coney Island public housing building last Friday. 

Kelly said the agency was still waiting for the Medical Examiner to determine his cause of death before an investigation is completed. 

"I'd like to offer my sincere condolences to his wife and family on behalf of the entire NYCHA community," Kelly added. 

NYCHA demoted its director of elevators following the investigation into the death of Pabon and announced new safety measures, including routing any life-threatening elevator conditions called into its customer care center to 911. 

Vacca said the death was due to a "perfect storm" of ineptitude. 

"From one level to the next, Mr. Pabon’s life was in danger and all of his calls for help, with the bureaucracy, were falling on deaf ears or on incompetence."