The New York legislature voted Thursday to require licenses for thousands of elevator mechanics in the city and across the state, following mounting pressure to improve safety standards.
It is the first time the law has passed the legislature since it was first introduced in 2011. Since that time, almost two dozen people have been killed in elevators, a majority of which were mechanics who were not required by state or city laws to receive training.
The law, which awaits approval from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will establish an “Elevator Safety and Standards Board.” The state’s Department of Labor and the city’s Department of Buildings will be responsible for issuing statewide and city-based licenses, respectively.
Late Thursday evening, the Assembly voted to pass a bill sponsored by Bronx Democrat Marcos Crespo. It came after an identical bill passed the state Senate last month, the first time the legislative body had heard the proposed law since it was first introduced in 2011.
“It’s been an eight-year battle,” said Mike Halpin, a spokesperson for the International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 1. “It’s a huge win for elevator workers and the elevator-riding public.”
A spokesperson for Cuomo did not respond to a request for comment on whether he would sign the bill.
The bill follows mounting pressure to increase safety standards of elevators, and training for those who work on them. A six-month investigation by The Real Deal, published in January, revealed that poor enforcement of city safety standards and malpractice by elevator contractors had compromised the safety of people in New York City elevators in recent years.
The report also revealed that at least 22 people were killed in elevators in New York City from 2010 to 2018, and 48 more seriously injured. More than half of the fatalities were mechanics, who have never been required by city or state laws to undergo extensive training.
For some time, the real estate industry New York City had opposed the increased safety measures, and called it a push by the elevator unions to boost memberships and profit. But the city in recent months changed its stance and endorsed the bill. The Real Estate Board of New York and the Rent Stabilization Association, two industry advocates, have remained wary and expressed concerns that the new requirements would be burdensome on the industry.
Frank Ricci, director of government affairs for RSA, said the Senate’s version of the bill was “better than it was,” but added that small elevator companies would be burdened by requirements like increased supervision over mechanics.
“We want to make sure that the companies that service those buildings aren’t pushed out of business.”