Unreliable elevators in senior living apartment trapping many, residents claim

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Residents of senior living apartment complex claim they become imprisoned when elevators continue to break, forcing many to skip vital treatments like dialysis or chemotherapy.

Unable to walk well, Phillissa Hill shuffled from her apartment to the elevator down the hall where she said there is a reoccurring problem.

“It doesn’t light up. It’s not working,” Hill said pushing the arrow buttons. “It hasn’t worked since yesterday.”

Hill lives on the seventh floor of the Linden Terrace Apartments nestled in Midtown between Front and 2nd streets next to Verbeke. She said the elevators are often broken, keeping many senior citizens caged inside their apartments.

“It’s scary,” she said. “You feel trapped. You feel like, if I go out, can I get back in? If I go on the elevator, am I going to get stuck?”

Hill said her neighbors have complained of getting stuck, although she’s never had that misfortune. However, she has taken the elevator down only to return from errands unable to go back upstairs.

Linden Terrace has two elevators. Residents said one elevator has been down for several months. There was a sign posted on that elevator Tuesday. The other elevator in the building often breaks, many have complained. That elevator was also down.

David Oliver battles various medical conditions, but was able to walk down 10 flights of stairs to get some fresh air.

Linden Terrace elevator operation certificate approved on '11-2-15' the same day it went down.
Linden Terrace elevator operation certificate approved on ’11-2-15′ the same day it went down.

“Some days we have no elevators at all,” he said. “So, you cannot leave the building if you’re old because you have to walk these steps here.”

One gentleman came out of the side stairwell wobbly, grasping the wall with one hand and a cane in the other. He did not want to be identified, but said he lived on the eighth floor. He’s had to maneuver flights of stairs several times.

“It’s really tough,” he said. “I had back surgery and I got a pin in my leg. It’s bad in here now.”

A deputy chief with the Harrisburg Fire Department said they have had a few calls to Linden Terrace for elevator issues. He said the number could be greater if the property owner reported the problem as something else.

Several residents said the fire department was called to Linden Terrace Monday evening and extracted a man battling cancer from his 10th floor apartment window due to the elevator being down.

Hill said she is the head of the Linden Terrace tenants association. She said many residents come crying to her for help.

“I can’t fix it,” she said sobbing. “And I don’t have an answer. As much as I want to fix it, I don’t know how to fix it.”

That’s why Hill said she called ABC 27’s Dave Marcheskie to investigate.

Property Management Inc.(PMI) of Lemoyne operates the HUD-funded living center. On its website, it markets Linden Terrace as a low-cost home for the disabled that is “an elevator-assisted building.”

PMI’s Senior Property Manager, Chris Hill, was at Linden Terrace this morning. She declined to go on camera, but said the problem with the elevators involves the elevator company Thyssenkrupp.

Martin claimed they continue to do shoddy work and do not properly fix the elevators. She said PMI wants to hire another elevator company, but they are unable to do a contract. Martin said Thyssenkrupp does not want to sever ties until the contract expires in 2017.

She also said Thyssenkrupp refused to fix the elevator on Tuesday, given that Election Day was a company holiday. Martin said that the hands of PMI are tied and they’re doing everything they can to help residents.

Oliver did not see it that way.

“If they have a contract with them, take care of the contract in the court system,” he said. “In the meantime, get another elevator company out here to fix this for us.”

Inside the latest elevator to break was a certificate of operation per law by the Department of Labor and Industry Elevator Division. That certificate was signed by a “B. Brandt 854” on 11-2-15, the same day PMI and residents said the elevator was down.

A L&I spokesperson said the certificate that was signed by a third party, not by a department inspector.

The spokesperson added that elevator issues are inspected only when someone files a complaint. They will take ABC27’s report as a formal complaint and inspect both elevators to make sure both are in working order.

Thyssenkrupp’s York branch manager said he was unable to comment about the elevator issues or contract situation and referred ABC27 to the corporate office in Texas. After several calls, a spokesperson said a maintenance crew repaired one elevator and planned to fix the other on Wednesday.

A spokesperson provided this statement:

“ThyssenKrupp Elevator maintains the service contract on the elevators at Linden Terrace apartments in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We are pleased to confirm the elevator is currently operational. In addition to providing scheduled and unscheduled repairs, we have recommended several modernization options to help make the elevators at Linden Terrace more reliable. Our primary objective at ThyssenKrupp is the safety of the people who depend on our products every day and we strive to partner with building managers and owners to deliver safe reliable service.”

Hill said contracts and blame are not her concern. Her only request is for people living in Linden Terrace to feel safe and have an opportunity to live without fear.

“I want people to be able to go down and come back up with their walkers, their wheelchairs, their mobile chairs, their canes,” she said. “I want them to be able to feel like this is their home again and not a prison and just trapped inside.”

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