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Broken elevator frustrates seniors at Buffalo public housing high-rise

Tenants say it's not unusual for one of the two elevators at the Buffalo housing authority's L.B. Johnson Apartments building to be broken.

But after four days when at times neither elevator at the 10-story senior housing building was working, the tenants say they are angry and frustrated.

"We need to replace them," said L.B.J. tenant representative Carmela Dorsey.

"I walked up eight flights. It was crippling. Someone had to carry my walker," said tenant Lisa Pearson. "I have multiple health problems."

At one point, an elderly resident was stuck in the elevator for 10 to 20 minutes before it resumed working, according to Dorsey.

"This is scary," she said.

The Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority is in the process of replacing the two elevators at the building on Humboldt Parkway, BMHA Executive Director Gillian Brown said Tuesday. Design work began a few months ago, and new elevators are expected to be installed in 2019, hopefully in the first half of the year, said Brown, who took over as head of the agency in March after longtime executive director Dawn Sanders-Garrett resigned.

"The elevators are really old, and at the end of their useful lives," Brown said.

L.B. Johnson Apartments  tenant representative Carmela Dorsey in front of a broken elevator at the 10-story complex owned by the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority. (Susan  Schulman/Buffalo News)

Meanwhile, Brown said, the BMHA has had elevator repair crews at the scene, or on 24-hour standby, since the elevator problems began last Wednesday night.

There were periods when both were down, but it was sporadic and not for a full day, he said. One of the elevators was working Tuesday and both were working Wednesday after a new part was installed, he said.

"I'm sympathetic to how bad it is," Brown said. "It's very difficult to be elderly, disabled, and have to make your way up."

This most recent elevator ordeal began last Wednesday night, and continued through Sunday night, Dorsey said. One elevator hasn't worked the entire time, and the other would shut down sporadically. Sometimes it would be down for an hour or so, and once – on Saturday – for three hours, Dorsey said.

Residents remain concerned.

"It keeps stopping on five – no one is pressing the button," said Tommy Rogers as he got off the elevator Tuesday morning.

Residents said it's not unusual for one of their two elevators to be broken, and there have been other times when both haven't worked.

"It's happened at least five times in the past seven years," said tenant Linda Parker.

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