State audit faults Plaza elevator firm

The state did not properly regulate and may have overpaid a private operator of the Empire State Pla

The state did not properly regulate and may have overpaid a private operator of the Empire State Plaza’s elevators, according to an audit released Thursday by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

A statewide review by the Comptroller’s Office of the state’s $21.5 million in elevator maintenance contracts revealed 32 maintenance deficiencies at the plaza that haven’t been fixed for at least five months by the Schindler Elevator Corporation, which operates the elevators. The deficiencies were noted in September 2010 and were still not fixed in February 2011, even though repairs are supposed to be made within 30 working days.

Also, the audit revealed that the state Office of General Services, which is responsible for overseeing Schindler, didn’t have a qualified person checking on the elevators, failed to assess a $201,900 fine against Schindler for failing to fix deficiencies and may have paid Schindler $6,797 for services that might not have been performed because improper records were kept.

The contract with Schindler is worth $2.5 million and includes elevators for Corning Tower, The Egg, the plaza’s convention center and the executive mansion. The contract covers a five-year period and ends March 31, 2014.

“Safety is of the utmost importance to the thousands of New Yorkers who rely on Plaza elevators and escalators every day,” said DiNapoli in a news release. “It’s up to OGS to make sure that their contractors do timely repairs to ensure public safety.”

As a result of the audit, the state Office of General Services has assigned a new director and deputy director of plaza operations to oversee elevator maintenance.

OGS spokeswoman Heather Groll stressed that safety is a major concern for her department.

“OGS has confirmed with an independent inspector that the elevators are in safe working order,” she said. “In addition, we have reassigned additional high-level staff to oversee our elevator maintenance and withheld $647,000 from Schindler Elevator since last November while we assess their ongoing performance.”

Stephen Madarasz, a spokesman for CSEA, said the safety of elevators was a major concern for members of his union.

“Comptroller DiNapoli’s report does raise concerns about safety,” he said, “but the simple point is that that shouldn’t even be an issue if the private contractors were being accountable under their contact.”

Overall, the audits found the state’s elevators are not being properly inspected and overseers are failing to ensure services are being provided.

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