Faulty elevators prompt court action against owner of Greensburg apartment building for the elderly

November 10, 2018

Greensburg officials filed a criminal complaint against the owner of Pershing Square Apartments, a 12-story downtown building where elderly residents have been left stranded after elevators repeatedly broke down.

“We’ve been inundated (with complaints). We’re taking action,” said Barbara Ciampini, city planning director. “This is a huge safety issue.”

The city Planning Department on Monday filed a criminal complaint against building owner I Choose Not To Run LLC for allegedly violating a section of the International Property Maintenance Code pertaining to elevators. The section requires that property owners provide a certificate of inspection for the elevators or a plan to replace the elevators, which I Choose Not To Run LLC has not done since receiving a notice of code violation on Sept. 21, Ciampini said.

The high-rise apartment building, located at 209 W. Third St., has two elevators that serve 120 mostly elderly residents. One elevator has not worked for about 10 weeks. The other has broken down at least twice in the past month, according to residents who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals.

“It is very dangerous. What if somebody has a heart attack and both elevators are down?” said a 90-year-old female resident.

The longtime resident noted that the building is about 35 years old and that the elevators are original to the building.

“The thing is, they sent somebody to fix the other elevator, but it makes all kinds of noise. It keeps you awake at night,” she said.

An orange cone marks the elevator that is out of operation. A sign posted at the building entrance states that, by order of city officials and the property management company, the working elevator must be shut down twice each weekday -- from 11-11:30 a.m. and 1:30-2 p.m.

City planners became aware of the elevator problems on Sept. 21, when the Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department responded to Pershing Square for a report of a resident trapped in an elevator, Ciampini said.

“We prepared to evacuate the building,” Ciampini said. “We actually started triage, deciding who should come out first and how to get them down.”

The evacuation was canceled after a maintenance man got one elevator working in a little over an hour, she said.

“We asked the property owner for a fire safety and evacuation plan. They had to search for it and couldn’t find it,” she said.

The city issued two notices of code violation that day, one pertaining to the elevators and one pertaining to the fire safety and evacuation plan.

The notice stated that the city had been to the apartment building three times in three weeks to “extradite residents from the overheated elevator.”

“Both elevators must be operational for your high rise,” the notice stated. “As you should be aware, only one elevator has been in service and it is heating up and shutting down, which causes a public safety issue for your 120 residents.”

The Beverly Hills, Calif.-based owner was given 30 days to comply. Ciampini said the owner provided a copy of the fire safety and evacuation plan but has failed to fix the elevators.

The charge carries a fine of $100 each day the violation is not abated, meaning the owner has already racked up a potential fine of $3,000, Ciampini said. A hearing before Greensburg District Judge Chris Flanigan has not yet been scheduled.

A certificate of operation posted inside the working elevator notes that it was last inspected on April 19. Other inspection dates were Jan. 22, Oct. 11, 2017, and April 25, 2017.

Pershing Square is managed by Preservation Management Inc., of South Portland, Maine, which could not be reached for comment.

Residents receive financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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