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Neighbors Pitch In to Support Seniors Stranded Without Elevator

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | January 6, 2017 11:05am | Updated on January 9, 2017 8:47am
 Victor Cussuna, 90, was out of breath Thursday after getting back to his third-floor apartment.
Victor Cussuna, 90, was out of breath Thursday after getting back to his third-floor apartment.
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

QUEENS — Neighbors are mobilizing to help seniors stranded in their apartments after the elevator in their Kew Gardens building was taken out of service a month ago. 

The elevator in the 6-story building on Austin Street, near 84th Road, won't be working until Jan. 21, according to signs posted in the lobby, as it's undergoing a major overhaul, making it impossible for some elderly residents to leave their apartments, including an 80-year-old woman who lives on the sixth floor and can't climb stairs, residents said.

Another 87-year-old woman was taken to a hospital over the weekend after trying to return to her third-floor apartment, residents said.

Locals who belong to several neighborhood Facebook groups offered help as soon as they learned about the situation, said Michele Dore, an admin of the Queens NY Businesses and Events group.

“I printed 40 fliers to put under the tenants’ doors offering to make errands,” she said.

Cynthia Riba, who lives in the building and belongs to the WomenHelpingWomen group, said she walked around the building Wednesday night and also left notes at people's doors asking if they needed help.

“A lot of them don’t use Facebook so I wanted to let them know because I think they are just not aware [of people offering help],” she said.  

Riba added that she's been carrying groceries and other heavy bags for residents in need.

The tenants said that the repairs were badly needed, since the elevator, which has been in use since the building since it opened in the 1950s, was very old.

"It was very dangerous," said one of the residents who did not want his name to be used. "Sometimes it stopped and you had to jump out because it would stop above the floor level," he said.

DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

But they also said management picked the worst time of the year for the repairs, making it difficult for them to visit their families during the holiday season and receive packages because delivery companies have been leaving them in the lobby.

“They picked the most inconvenient time of the year and they stretched it out as long as possible,” said Cussuna's son, David, 53, who came from Florida to help his father. “I think it’s just a way to put more pressure on the older people who live in the building and make it uncomfortable for them.”

Some residents said that they asked the building's management company to put chairs on the landings so that people could stop and rest for a few minutes while climbing stairs but their pleas were ignored, they said.

Victor Cussuna, 90, was out of breath Thursday when he got back to his apartment on the third floor. “I try not to do it too often,” he said breathing heavily. 

The building's management company PSRS Realty Group did not return phone calls seeking comment.