Residents of an expensive Financial District high-rise are contending with frequent elevator breakdowns.
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Good morning. It’s Tuesday. We’ll look at a high-rise building where residents can’t count on the elevators. We’ll also take note of Alligator in the Sewer Day, which had to be postponed because of the pandemic.
Several years ago, the editor of Elevator World magazine told me that elevators had made the modern vertical city possible. “It would have been a two- or a three-story world, as opposed to now,” he said.
A building that once towered over the Financial District brought his comment to mind. This building was one of the tallest in Lower Manhattan when it was new in the 1930s, when the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building seemed to pierce the sky in Midtown. The elevators in this building climbed 59 stories above the street. It was home to a bank.
Now, having been converted to apartments, it is home to tenants who are paying as much as $5,000 a month for a one-bedroom, and they are angry. More than a dozen described living in what one called “high-rise hell.”
They’re furious because the elevators that are supposed to rise to the floors above 15 are often out for hours at a time, tenants say. But the lack-of-service disruptions are not all that they have had to contend with. When the elevators were running, there had been scary moments: Some residents say they experienced sudden jolts.
Elevators that service the lower floors have continued to function, amplifying the annoyance of high-floor residents who prize their stunning views of New York Harbor.
So much of life in New York City is defined by elevators. There are 70,000 passenger elevators in the city. When they break down, there are disruptions, whether in a luxury building or in public housing complexes, which are often hit by service problems.
The tenants in the building in Lower Manhattan, at 20 Exchange Place, have been late for work, missed appointments and canceled plans. “Our lives completely changed the moment these elevators stopped working,” said Faisal Al Mutar, 30, who lives in a studio on the 22nd floor.
Some tenants have even considered moving. But as my colleagues Karen Zraick and Ashley Wong write, how do you move out of a high-rise without an elevator?
Those who are able have climbed many, many stairs. One software engineer has gotten so used to the hike that he signed up for the 102-story Tunnels to Towers charity climb at One World Trade Center in June. Others worry about neighbors who cannot make the trek or could face delays receiving medical attention in an emergency.
The building’s owner, DTH Capital, maintains that the problems are probably related to electrical surges from Con Edison. They say the elevators’ operating boards burn out frequently — so often that elevator mechanics have been hired to work at the building around the clock. The owners also say they have tried to buy the boards in bulk, but supply-chain issues have limited how many are available.
Con Edison says it has conducted extensive testing at the building and found “no indication that our power supply is deficient or compromised.”
“To date, we have not been presented with any plausible theory as to why the elevator problems, which have developed since work to install a new elevator system began, are related to Con Edison equipment or service,” the company said in a statement.
For now, the residents plod on. After working a 12-hour shift as a nurse, Erin Campbell arrived at the building at 8:30 p.m. and was told that the elevators to her floor would be out until about 11 p.m. She walked up to the 48th floor.
“I just started crying,” said Campbell, 28. “I’m a young, in-shape person, so I can do it. But it’s miserable.”
It’s a sunny day in the low 40s, New York, with temps dropping to the high 20s at night.
In effect until April 14 (Holy Thursday).
New York State officials reached a deal to help the Buffalo Bills build a $1.4 billion stadium using $850 million in public funds, the largest taxpayer contribution ever for a pro football facility.
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Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, the No. 3 Republican in the House, has embraced Trumpism and the extremists in her ranks.
The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether Andy Warhol violated the copyright law by drawing on a photograph for a series of images of the musician Prince.
The pandemic forced the cancellation or postponement of events from the New York City Marathon to the New York International Auto Show to Alligator in the Sewer Day.
Yes, Alligator in the Sewer Day, an annual observance started by Michael Miscione when he was the Manhattan borough historian to commemorate the decisive gator-sighting — an episode that instantly became the city’s most enduring urban legend, even though experts have repeatedly said that alligators could not last in the cruelly foul water and cold temperatures below ground.
It lingers in more than Miscione’s mind. Thomas Pynchon’s novel “V,” published in the early 1960s, described a city-run Alligator Patrol whose beat was subterranean. “They worked in teams of two,” Pynchon wrote. “One held the flashlight, the other carried a 12-gauge shotgun.” Pynchon said the chief knew that “most hunters regard the use of this weapon like anglers feel about dynamiting fish, but he was not looking for write-ups in Field and Stream.”
The incident that prompted Alligator in the Sewer Day unfolded on Feb. 9, 1935, when three East Harlem teenagers who had been shoveling snow spotted an alligator in a storm drain.
“They couldn’t leave well enough alone,” Miscione said. “They proceeded to pull off the sewer cover and acquire a lasso.” (There were conflicting reports about where the lasso came from. The New York Herald Tribune said one of the boys snatched his mother’s clothesline. The New York Times said he got it from a nearby hardware store.)
The Times said the clothesline boy — Salvatore Condolucci, 16 — fashioned a noose and lowered it into the sewer where, after “several tantalizing near-catches,” he managed to slip it around the alligator’s neck. The boys pulled the alligator to the street.
“There he sat,” Miscione said.
Until they tried to remove the rope.
“The gator sprang to life and snapped at the boys,” Miscione said. The Daily News said the alligator missed Condolucci “by T-H-A-T much. Whew!”
The boys reacted immediately. “The shovels that had been used to pile snow on the alligator’s head,” The Times said, “were now to rain blows upon it.” They took the dead alligator to the hardware store, where there was a scale. It weighed 125 pounds.
Miscione started Alligator in the Sewer Day on the 75th anniversary, in 2010, with a proclamation from Scott Stringer, the Manhattan borough president at the time. Miscione held an event on the steps of City Hall. He had planned to hold this year’s observance on Feb. 9 but postponed it, he said, at the request of the place he was to give a talk.
The makeup version, on Tuesday, will take place at 6 p.m. at the General Society Library in Midtown Manhattan. He said on Monday that the seating there was full but that the gathering would be streamed online to those who register.
“Even now,” he said, “I think the story plays into the scale of the city and its dark, hidden places. The sewer system’s as big as the city and nobody goes down there. And the story is one part mystery and one part wildness. We’re talking about a wild animal. We’re not talking about a dog or a raccoon even.”
ProPublica and The City reported on how, despite efforts by the state to reduce the reliance on hospitalization for children with mental health emergencies, it is becoming more difficult to find the hospital care they need.
A stage revival of the classic musical “Camelot” is returning to Broadway this fall, with a new book by the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.
I hopped into a cab that was stopped at a red light on Park Avenue. The taxi was immaculate, and the driver was, as my parents would say, a true gentleman.
Suddenly, halfway to where I was going, he asked: As we are at a red light, may I feed the birds?
He hopped out of the cab clutching a large bag of seed and began to spread it among a sizable group of pigeons that were loitering on the mall.
Do you do this often? I asked when he returned.
It’s hard to find a meal in winter, especially for smaller birds, he said.
Then he burrowed into another bag to throw a large bread crumb or two to an expectant sparrow.
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero, Jeff Boda and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
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