By: Elisheva Kohn  | 

Brookdale Resident Falls Five Floors in Trapped Elevator, Rescued by FDNY

An elevator in Brookdale Residence Hall on the Beren Campus fell five floors last Sunday, April 11 while Brookdale resident Daphna Ziffer (SCW ‘22) was trapped inside. It dropped floor by floor from the fifth floor to the basement, before rising back to the first floor, falling again and getting stuck in between the first floor and the basement. 

Ziffer estimated that she was stuck in the elevator at around 5:30 p.m. for 30 to 45 minutes throughout the incident. She told The Commentator that she had “panicked” and felt “pure terror” while stuck inside, though she did not suffer any serious injuries. Ziffer does not plan on suing YU for the incident, and she noted that the university offered to cover any medical bills caused by the elevator incident.

That day, Ziffer was heading to the sixth floor of Brookdale when the elevator abruptly stopped on the fifth floor and proceeded to fall. When she first realized that the elevator was falling, Ziffer pressed the emergency button, but she said it was difficult for her to communicate with security because the alarm — which was triggered by activating the emergency button — was so loud. Ziffer recalls a second alarm going off, though it remains unclear what caused it. 

Two security guards attempted to pry open the elevator doors once the elevator hit the basement the first time, but were unsuccessful. After being trapped in the malfunctioning elevator while it went back up to the first floor and fell again, Ziffer found herself situated “somewhere in between the first floor and the basement.” At that point, Ziffer reported, security called the FDNY, and they arrived a few minutes later. The FDNY then successfully freed her by reaching the stuck elevator from the basement and instructing her to climb down.  

Following the elevator incident, Ziffer’s parents reached out to Vice Provost for Student Affairs Dr. Chaim Nissel, who, according to Ziffer, called back within 24 hours to discuss the matter. Assistant Dean of Students Dr. Sara Asher also called Ziffer to inquire about her wellbeing. “They were both very very helpful,” Ziffer said. “Obviously, this was not a good situation to be in, but I think they handled it as positively as it could have been.”

“This was a scary experience,” remarked Ziffer, but she stressed that Nissel, Asher and security handled it in a “caring” way. The elevator in Brookdale has been operating smoothly since the incident. 

This event follows a series of elevator-related issues on both campuses in the 2019-20 academic year. In May 2019, a Beren student experienced an elevator free-fall in Brookdale, resulting in a minor concussion. In November 2019, a Beren student free-fell in a malfunctioned elevator in Stanton Hall on the Beren Campus. The following month, The Commentator reported that YU had been issued dozens of building code violations — largely stemming from elevator issues on both campuses –– over the previous three years.  In January 2020, seven male students were briefly trapped in an elevator in Morgenstern Residence Hall on the Wilf Campus, which also led to an FDNY rescue. These incidents were widely reported and sparked calls for action by students.

Last June, in the Fall 2020 reopening handbook, the university claimed that they had been “doing significant work on the elevators over the past few months.” It is unclear what, if anything, took place to repair broken elevators and ensure student safety.

As of publication, Chief Facilities & Administrative Officer Randy Apfelbaum did not return a request to comment on the latest elevator incident. 

Photo caption: A photo taken by the trapped student during the FDNY rescue
Photo credit: Daphne Ziffer