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NYC Elevator Safety Inspectors Say They Are Pressured To Fake Reports

The following is from the NY Daily News: Nearly three years after 5-year-old, Jacob Neuman A”H died trying to escape from a stalled housing project elevator, whistleblowing city inspectors say they’re being told to fake reports and take safety shortcuts.

The city Housing Authority vowed to get on top of elevator safety after Neuman fell 10 stories to his death in August 2008, trying to squeeze out of a stuck lift at a Brooklyn project.

Years later, six inspectors have come forward to say the system remains unsafe because bosses pressure them to close inspections without doing a thorough job.

They say supervisors are obsessed with meeting a daily quota of six inspections a man, often ordering them to move to the next job without shutting dangerous elevators and waiting for a mechanic, as NYCHA rules dictate.

One veteran inspector who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation said he was under constant pressure not to pull the plug on unsafe elevators.

“I told them somebody’s wife could be riding on that elevator, somebody’s kid,” he said. “They didn’t want to hear it.”

Inspector John DeMicco, a 26-year NYCHA veteran, said he was repeatedly told not to enter deficiencies into a hand-held computer that generates work orders – instructions he refused to follow.

“If alarms don’t work or if the zone locks don’t work, they say, ‘Let it go,'” he testified in the recent disciplinary trial of inspector Anthony DePompeis.

At that hearing, DePompeis testified, “Whenever I seen motor room doors unsecured, I was asked to move on. Whenever I seen stop switches broken, I was asked to move on. Whenever I seen zone locks broken, I was asked to move on.”

Another witness at the hearing, Inspector Charles Bailey, told of a lack of manpower and supervisors’ adherence to quotas: “There was a practice where we just kept moving on.”

“If the inspectors’ supervisor gave these kind of orders, he should be fired,” said Raymond Ballard, a Brooklyn tenant rep. “I am concerned about the potential for loss of life.”

DePompeis, a 15-year NYCHA vet, was charged with failing to file inspection reports and threatening to kill his boss in an argument. He denies wrongdoing and says the fight was over his refusal to fudge reports.

The safety issues have consequences. Officials say a malfunctioning zone lock, which prevents cab doors from opening in stalled elevators, triggered Jacob’s death.

That tragedy prompted a rash of probes, including one by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer that found a “culture of neglect” in NYCHA elevator inspection and maintenance.

After the boy’s death, NYCHA vowed to spend $107 million to replace 350 broken elevators and $5 million more for new inspectors and computerized tracking.

NYCHA says since then it has awarded $108 million in contracts to modernize 297 elevators, of which 176 are updated. A five-year plan calls for spending $216 million to modernize 609 more elevators.

The number of inspectors responsible for 3,326 elevators has remained unchanged since the boy’s death – 78. There are 74 more maintenance positions, though, and NYCHA has begun hiring private companies to monitor some inspections.

NYCHA requires inspectors to record their findings in a logbook, on a printed checklist and in a hand-held computer that generates a work order. The violations don’t always appear on all three.

DePompeis’ May to October 2010 inspection records show many of his checklists had twice the number of deficiencies the computer spit out on work orders, with some missing potentially life-threatening violations.

Last August, DePompeis reported unsatisfactory emergency brakes on an elevator at Brooklyn’s Pink Houses. That problem didn’t show up on the work order.

The NYCHA supervisor he fought with, Kenneth Buny, could not explain the discrepancies, but testified he never asked an inspector to falsify a report.

NYCHA spokeswoman Sheila Stainback declined to comment.

(Source: NY Daily News)

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