By: Elisheva Kohn  | 

Seven Students Rescued From Broken Morgenstern Elevator

Seven Yeshiva University students were briefly trapped in an elevator in the Morgenstern Residence Hall on the Wilf Campus at approximately 5:40 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23. The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) arrived 15 minutes later and successfully freed them from the broken elevator. 

According to a student who was in touch with The Commentator during the incident, the students trapped inside the elevator immediately pressed the emergency communication button when the elevator got stuck on the fourth floor of the dormitory building. The car door had opened when it reached the fourth floor, but the hoistway door — the door connecting the elevator car to the floor — remained closed. YU Security responded to the students’ emergency call and informed them that the FDNY was on their way. Students remained calm in the elevator while they waited for the FDNY.

Personnel from FDNY Tower Ladder Company 45 arrived approximately 15 minutes after the students called YU Security. Firefighters forcefully pried open the door and told students to remain inside the elevator while they turned off the electricity. Otherwise, students were told, the elevator might “drop.” 

Randy Apfelbaum, Chief Facilities & Administrative Officer at YU, explained in a statement to The Commentator that the “FDNY assessed the situation and determined the safest way for the students to exit the elevator. This included asking the students to wait in the elevator until the power to the elevator car was properly shut off.”

"It was a pretty scary experience; it was the first time I've ever gotten stuck in an elevator,“ said Bryan Lavi (YC ‘21), one of the students who was trapped in the elevator. “The scariest part, I think, was the thought that maybe the elevator would drop at any second, but thankfully that did not happen and we got out safe.”

“It was stressful, mostly because I was in a rush, but thankfully there was a fast response. The fire department was very efficient and got us all out of the elevator quickly,” remarked Michael Gerber (YC ‘22), another student who was rescued from the elevator. “While it was inconvenient, it was all with good company.”

This incident follows a series of elevator-related issues on both the Beren and Wilf Campuses. On May 22, 2019, Shifra Lindenberg (SSSB ‘21) suffered a minor concussion after experiencing an elevator free-fall in the Brookdale Residence Hall. On Nov. 12, 2019, an elevator on the Beren Campus fell three floors with a student inside. The student inside pressed the emergency communication button, but there was no response.

Recently, The Commentator reported that YU was issued dozens of building code violations, mostly based on elevator-related issues on both campuses. The university was also issued a number of fire code summonses in recent years, including for an inoperative fire command communication system in an elevator. Broken elevators have been frustrating students and university staff on a near-daily basis, preventing them from getting to class on time, inconveniencing individuals carrying luggage or heavy items and posing a major challenge to people with disabilities. 

“The elevator contractor has been called to assess what happened and will put the elevator back in service when they have determined it is safe to do so,” said Apfelbaum. “We apologize for the event, as well as for any inconvenience as we work to ensure the safety of our students.”

Photo Caption: Firefighters rescuing students from the broken elevator
Photo Credit: Bryan Lavi