Chicago Tribune (Illinois)
BYLINE: Cynthia Dizikes and Alex Richards, Chicago Tribune
Over the past two years, the elevators at 4526 N. Sheridan Road have developed a reputation for unreliability, according to residents and city records.
They often break down, apartment tenants say, sometimes trapping riders inside. Even when they are running, their creaky rise and descent has driven many to the stairs, residents say.
From 2011 through spring 2012, more than 20 complaint calls about the building’s elevators were logged with the city. Callers noted prolonged outages and that many elderly people who have health problems and disabilities live in the six-floor building.
Eugene Emery, 68, said he lives on the fourth floor and has a heart problem.
“I have to take a break every five stairs,” said Emery, describing his course of action when the elevator isn’t working. “I gotta pay people to take my groceries and laundry on the stairs because I can’t carry them.”
The freight and passenger elevators at the apartment building were last inspected in March 2010 and both failed, according to city records. Failures can be issued for everything from a nonworking light to a major safety violation.
“It’s important to note that out of over 10,000 devices that have been inspected in the past year — both by the department and by state-certified third-party inspection companies — only 29, or less than one-tenth of 1 percent, were found to be in a condition that was unsafe to the public,” city spokeswoman Caroline Weisser said.
City officials said the building department was at the site multiple times throughout 2011 and 2012 in response to calls.
“In all instances the device was found either out of service or in the process of being repaired — these situations are not dangerous to the public,” city officials said in a written statement, noting that the building management was brought in for an administrative hearing for code violations in 2010 and that a notice of violation was sent to the building in 2012.
FirstMerit Bank N.A. filed a foreclosure complaint on the property in January, and in May the federal court appointed a receiver to manage and control the property during the foreclosure process.
Hodo Menetti, a member of 4526 North Sheridan LLC, which owned the building, declined to discuss the elevators when reached by phone Wednesday. “The bank took that one,” he said before hanging up.
The Tribune found that outside the downtown Central Business District 82 percent of devices did not receive annual inspections in the last year. Although 58 percent have been inspected within the last three years, the Tribune found that about 300 devices had not been inspected since 2002, according to city records.
In addition to other reforms, the city told the Tribune it is now planning to embark on an elevator inspection “blitz” for elevators outside the Central Business District. Routine annual inspections will now also be done by community area to reduce drive times and increase the number of inspections that can be done every day, according to the city.
The city is also looking to hire more inspectors, officials said.
“Over the next few years, the department will close the gap in elevator inspections across the city,” the city’s statement said.
At 4526 N. Sheridan, meanwhile, tenants said conditions have improved since the receiver took over the property. But Roger Standing Cloud, who was entering the building earlier this month, said work still needs to be done.
Walking to the elevator, Standing Cloud punched the button and the door slid open, revealing a puddle on the floor.
“In this day and age, there shouldn’t be these kinds of problems with an elevator,” he said.
Copyright 2012 Chicago Tribune