Elevator outages plunge 20 Exchange Place into disarray

Issues have left residents without service above the 15th floor

(ButtonwoodTree at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons, iStock/Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)
(ButtonwoodTree at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons, iStock/Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)

A quick elevator ride up to an apartment is a luxury many New Yorkers take for granted, but residents at a Financial District luxury building can’t say the same.

Several residents of 20 Exchange Place told the New York Times the elevators in the 59-story building have been inconsistent and often unavailable since November. Outages have plagued the elevators servicing the 15th floor and above, regularly forcing residents to make difficult decisions about leaving and returning to the 750-unit building.

DTH Capital, the building’s owner, told the Times the operating boards for the elevators burn out so often, elevator mechanics are required 24/7. DTH said its attempts to buy the boards in bulk have been sabotaged by supply chain issues in recent months.

Without a clear fix, DTH is trying to appease residents with hotel rooms and furnished apartments on lower floors, or even in other buildings. Tenants have been able to break their leases and newly hired couriers deliver packages up and down the stairs. Rent concessions are also reportedly on the way.

DTH has pointed the blame towards Con Edison, claiming the elevator issues are likely related to electrical surges in its equipment. The company told the Times has tested the building’s systems and doesn’t see a “plausible theory” linking the elevator problems to its equipment or service.

Con Edison said it has no evidence so far the outages are related to its service, but has recruited the Electric Power Research Institute to assist in an investigation of the problems.

One software engineer told the Times he grew so accustomed to hiking up stairs that they signed up for the upcoming Tunnels to Tower charity climb in June, encompassing 102 stories at One World Trade Center.

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Other residents have had their daily appointments, work and meals interrupted by the constant elevator outages.

“There were some nights where there was no way to get dinner,” said 43rd floor resident Sara Irvine, who cannot use the stairs because of her arthritis. “I would just eat crackers or something.” Irvine is one of several residents who have complained of erratic behavior when the elevators do work, once being inside as it descended quickly and suddenly.

Some local lawmakers have turned their attention to resolving the issue. Councilman Christopher Marte claims more than 100 residents have contacted him and he’s called the situation “disturbing and ridiculous.” In addition to a joint statement describing collaboration with Con Edison and local authorities, the lawmakers were slated to appear at a press conference on Monday.

The issues over elevator service spurred a change in management. The Times reported Rose Associates is replacing First Service Residential as the building’s manager.

DTH was part of a venture that acquired the former City Bank-Farmers Trust Building in 2014 for $152 million. That same year, DTH obtained $240 million in financing to complete the rental conversion, eight years after getting a $256.5 million construction loan.

[NYT] — Holden Walter-Warner