By: Yitzchak Carroll and Yosef Lemel  | 

University Cited for Dozens of Building, Elevator Violations Over Past 3 Years

Yeshiva University has been issued dozens of building code violations in the past three years, largely stemming from elevator issues on both the Beren and Wilf Campuses, The Commentator has learned. 

Several of the violations are classified by the New York City Dept. of Buildings as “Code 1 — Immediately Hazardous” matters, and a number of the citations are still pending resolution. To date, the university has been assessed tens of thousands of dollars in fines for various building code violations from the Environmental Control Board, a city-run administrative tribunal that adjudicates summonses issued by various city agencies.

This past spring, the university was issued a $1,250 fine for a Code 1 violation involving major safety issues on a Furst Hall elevator, including "door zone restrictor not working” and “door clutch stopping elevator in flight,” according to Building Dept. records. This past summer, YU was cited and fined $1,500 for failing to certify a correction of the violation.

Most recently, a Nov. 26 inspection of the Rubin Residence Hall led to the issuance of more than $10,000 in summonses for multiple Code 1 violations. According to records, Building Dept. inspectors “observed an illegal laundry room in the basement of [Rubin Hall] with six active commercial gas dryers and new gas pipes, fittings and appliance valves in the kitchen and laundry room” of the residence hall, which also houses the Furman Cafeteria.

In 2017, YU paid more than $500 in fines to settle elevator code violations in Rubin Hall stemming from a defective door restrictor and elevator car door gibs in need of replacement. A door zone restrictor prevents an elevator’s doors from opening outside of the landing zone. A gib holds elevator doors in place while protecting occupants from flames in the event of a fire. In 2018, the university was fined $1,000 for not having an elevator door restrictor in place in Belfer Hall. A 2018 inspection also found that YU installed equipment in a Belfer elevator without a proper permit, an infraction the university paid more than $800 to settle.

YU’s Beren Campus in midtown Manhattan also had its share of violations. On Oct. 10, the university was assessed a $2,500 fine for an “immediately hazardous” violation of having a loose, cracked copestone on the 18th floor of the Brookdale Residence Hall. This past May, YU was also fined more than $600 for “failure to maintain” the elevator in Stanton Hall at 245 Lexington Ave.

At the Schottenstein Residence Hall, the university was cited in June 2018 for an inoperative door zone restrictor and “failure to maintain building in code-compliant manner” with respect to the dorm’s elevators. YU was also issued a $500 summons in Sept. 2017 for elevator equipment violations at the Schottenstein Residence Hall.

Senior Vice President Josh Joseph downplayed the university’s violations. “As a large real estate occupier with over 1.8 million square feet and 45 elevators, we occasionally receive violations from the city,” he said. “These are typically for non-safety related issues and often only require some paperwork to clear up, which can take the city months to resolve and update in their system.”

Last month, a Stern student was reportedly caught in an elevator scare in Stanton Hall as it fell three floors and stopped abruptly. The student pressed the elevator’s emergency button, but to no avail. In May, The Observer reported that an elevator in the Brookdale Residence Hall lost control and went into a free-fall, as Shifra Lindenberg (SSSB ‘20) suffered a concussion. In response, YU Chief Facilities and Administrative Officer Randy Apfelbaum noted that the university’s elevators have built-in safety mechanisms to prevent a free-fall.

These two incidents were not the only elevator malfunctions that students have reportedly experienced recently. Rachel Rosenberg (SCW ‘20) experienced a minor free-fall in a Belfer elevator last month with another student while leaving a Friday class on the Wilf Campus. “It is unclear to me why YU has spent a tremendous amount of money heightening the security when we enter and exit buildings, yet does not spend enough money on the safety of students inside the buildings,” she said, noting the university’s recent addition of ID card scanners in the lobby of most buildings. “The fact that even one student has gotten stuck or free-fallen in an elevator is bad, but more than one is inexcusable.”

Joseph contends that “the safety of our students, staff and faculty is our top priority,” and that YU is attentive to the summonses they are issued. “If the city inspector or our own maintenance vendor see a safety issue with either a building or an elevator, we take immediate action,” he said. “The fact that the elevators are legally running indicates that the violations are not safety related.”

As The Commentator previously reported last year, YU was issued seven fire code violation summonses within an 18-month period, including one summons for “failure to maintain two-way communication capability between the fire command station and elevators” in the Schottenstein Residence Hall. The university has since settled three of the seven violations, according to state court records.

Students were surprised by the amount of building code violations YU has been cited for in recent years. “I know how much the school cares about the students; it's one of the benefits of going to a smaller college,” said Eli Azizollahoff (SCW '20). “So for this kind of thing to go unchecked feels like the antithesis of how they want to act towards the student body, especially when it comes to a safety issue.”

Photo Caption: An out-of-service elevator 
Photo Credit: The Commentator