The New York Housing Authority has fired the head of its elevator division after faulty lifts killed one tenant and badly injured another in separate Bronx developments.
Olegario Pabon, 81, died after he got caught on Christmas Eve in a faulty elevator at the Boston Road Houses.
Tenant Olegario Pabon died after he got caught on Christmas Eve in a lurching lift at the Boston Road Houses, while tenant Jamal Brown broke his leg Dec. 2 when elevator doors closed on him in the Morris Houses.
NYCHA will announce Friday that Ken Buny, who leads its elevator division, was relieved of his duties and replaced.
The agency also reassigned five other workers who failed to communicate warnings about the deadly Boston Road lift. Each of the five faces disciplinary charges that could result in firing.
Buny was an expert on a city technical committee that drafted code revisions requiring more aggressive elevator inspections. The city Department of Investigation last month discovered he never implemented those changes at NYCHA.
City probers also discovered a communication breakdown, starting with a Housing Authority secretary who went home without passing on a warning about the lift 90 minutes before Pabon entered it. Hours after Pabon’s gruesome accident, a NYCHA assistant superintendent showed up at the building and found the lift out of service and an EMT onsite. He didn’t notify his supervisors.
Before Pabon’s fatal plunge, five workers failed to communicate warnings about the faulty elevator.
A caretaker who was with him also stayed silent, telling probers, “I was not paying it no mind. I was just looking to go home.” And a NYCHA operator who took the initial call failed to provide details of the complaint when she contacted elevator mechanics, stating only, “Elevator out of order.”
The next day, when an elevator mechanic informed his foreman he’d been told that somebody was badly hurt in the elevator, the foreman said, “We don’t know about anybody” and didn’t look into it, the Department of Investigation found.
NYCHA has begun seeking to punish these employees, but rejected the Department of Investigation’s recommendation to discipline four others.
NYCHA General Manager Michael Kelly was to announce the sanctions Friday at a City Council Public Housing Committee hearing on the elevator problems. Late Thursday committee’s chairman, Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx), postponed the hearing where he planned to ask NYCHA officials why inspectors routinely failed to inspect a device found in both the faulty lifts and 1,080 others. Since Pabon’s death, NYCHA has ratcheted up inspections to make sure the device won’t fail again.