To get to his fifth-floor apartment, Melvin Thompson takes an elevator in one building and walks across an outdoor walkway that connects to his building.
The elevator he's supposed to use has been out of service for more than five months, ever since October 29, when Hurricane Sandy hit.
“I have asthma. I can't go up and down the steps,” Thompson said. “And when I walk too far, I get shortness of breath. And I have left and right hip replacements, and it bothers me.”
The broken elevator affects some 75 families that live in the five-story building. It's part of a larger complex called Coney Island Site 4A Houses on West 33rd Street. Many residents are elderly and disabled, including Delores Miller.
“When I have to go shopping, I have to pull the shopping cart up the stairs, and it hurts me because I'm always in pain from pulling a big shopping cart up to the second floor,” Miller said.
On Friday, a lawsuit was filed to get the elevator fixed. The building's owner, management company and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which oversees the property, are all named in the suit.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries said the building receives government subsidies through the Mitchell Lama program.
“We are asking for the court to intervene to compel this landlord to do the right thing and to help restore some decency and some dignity to the living conditions of these residents,” Jeffries said.
“They do have an obligation, both under city law and also federal law, to keep the buildings habitable and safe for tenants,” said Brent Meltzer of Legal Services NYC.
Residents said it took about three months for power to even be restored to the complex. They said they dealt with no water and destruction to the ground floor. They said they're fed up.
The management company said it's been waiting for all the parts to install a new elevator. It said the work has begun and may take another two months to finish.
In the meantime, all sides are scheduled to appear in Brooklyn Housing Court on April 16.