Elevator outage in Morris Heights

Maribel Mercado (left) and daughter Jasmin Rodriguez are fed up with elevator problems at 1750 Sedgwick Avenue, a 20-story apartment building in Morris Heights. Photo by Victor Chu

Tenants at 1750 Sedgwick Avenue in Morris Heights are livid at management over broken elevators.

At least one tenant has suggested a rent strike at the 20-story building and has passed out angry pamphlets.

“Report Dalton Management,” the pamphlet urges. “We are being ignored, stepped on and forgotten…Stop paying your rent…Fight back.”

Two of the three elevators at 1750 Sedgwick have been out of commission for four months, said tenant Zita Agokeng, who was handed a pamphlet. One elevator has been out of commission for more than two years, Agokeng said.

The Department of Buildings has fielded 58 elevator-related complaints from tenants at 1750 Sedgwick, 28 complaints in 2009. The city has reported six DOB Environmental Control Board violations at the building in 2009; it reported four DOB violations in 2008.

There are thousands of dollars in unpaid DOB fines listed for 1750 Sedgwick, although some are from years ago. Elevators excluded, the building is well maintained, Agokeng said. There are 227 units and only 79 Department of Housing and Preservation violations. 1750 Sedgwick is registered to owner Avery Seavey at University Riverview of Park Avenue in Manhattan and to Dalton Management.

Agokeng, 24, was raised in the building, where rents are on the increase, elevator problems notwithstanding. Management added an additional $200 a month to her two-bedroom apartment in January, she said.

Because there is only one functional elevator, Agokeng waits 30 minutes to reach her seventh-floor apartment. She often takes the stairs but elderly and disabled tenants, and those who live on higher floors, are unable to.

“Some tenants are wheelchair bound,” Agokeng said. “So unfair.”

The functional elevator is unreliable; it frequently stops between floors. Firefighters had to rescue someone on Sunday, September 6, Agokeng said.

Maribel Mercado found an apartment at 1750 Sedgwick in April. Her daughter was trapped in an elevator for five minutes, Mercado said. School has started and the functional elevator is crowded.

Dalton Management chose not to comment, except to state that it posted a memo about the elevator situation on Tuesday, September 8.

“Please be advised that Dalton Management is doing everything within its power to rectify the elevator situation,” the memo stated. “University Riverview has entered into an agreement with a new contractor, Consolidated Elevator Company, for the modernization of the elevators. Parts have been ordered and the modernization of Elevator C is scheduled to begin this month.”

The DOB will pursue criminal court action, spokeswoman Carly Sullivan said. Someone in the building damaged the functional elevator on September 8, the memo stated.

Dalton Management has asked tenants to report elevator vandals and to use the stairs, if possible.

“We would like all who are comfortable walking the stairs to consider doing so,” the memo stated. “Others that may have a greater need for the elevator may be waiting.”

Councilwoman Helen Foster had not heard of elevator problems at 1750 Sedgwick Avenue, but said she would look into the situation. There is no tenant association at the building, Mercado said.

“[The elevator problems are] frustrating for people with strollers and grocery bags,” Agokeng said.

“We complain to management and nothing gets done. Is management waiting for someone to die? We’re fed up.”

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