NEW YORK — Roughly one year after an elevator accident in a Bronx housing project killed an 84-year-old man, NYCHA's demoted elevator director is still signing off on repairs and inspections at the agency.
Olegario Pabon started to enter the elevator at NYCHA's Boston Road Plaza senior building on Christmas Eve last year, but as he tried to get on, it began drifting upward, catching his leg and hand and causing him to fall out. He died of his injuries three days later.
The Department of Investigation released a harsh report about the incident in March, stating that NYCHA did not act to fix the elevator until four days after it malfunctioned and making 14 recommendations to the agency to help it improve elevator safety.
NYCHA demoted its Director of Elevators Ken Buny following the report and replaced him with Ivo Nikolic, who previously worked as director of the agency's material management department, but DNAinfo reported in July that Buny was still signing off on elevator repairs and inspections at the agency, as he is their only employee licensed to do so.
He is still signing off on these repairs and inspections five months later, although the agency maintains it is now nearing the end of its job search.
NYCHA spokeswoman Zodet Negrón also stressed that all repairs and inspections were being overseen by Nikolic and his staff, despite Buny being the employee officially signing off on the work.
“This job demands a very specific set of technical skills and experience, and NYCHA has been actively seeking out experts who qualify," she said in a statement. "With the leadership of our highly-qualified interim director and dedicated elevator division, we are continuing to improve service in our mission to create safe, clean, and connected communities.”
The attorney for Pabon's family did not respond to requests for comment.
City Councilman Ritchie Torres, who chairs the council's committee on public housing, described it as "outrageous" that it was taking NYCHA this long to hire a permanent replacement for its director of elevators.
"The core challenges that NYCHA faces stem from a lack of funding, but this is a situation where it’s more a matter of incompetence than disinvestment," he said.
"It seems to me there’s too much time spent on NextGen NYCHA PowerPoints and not enough time spent on hiring a competent team," he continued.
City Councilman James Vacca, who represents the district where Pabon's accident occurred and has previously criticized NYCHA for its response to his death, echoed Torres' concerns, saying that it should not take NYCHA so long to fill such an important position.
"This gives a new meaning to moving at a snail’s pace," he said, "and here we’re talking about life and limb."