City shuts down Ivory elevators

by Chloé Sorvino

Correction appended

The city has forced two of Ivory Tower's four elevators to close until they are brought up to code and reinspected, after the University illegally installed new parts without a permit.

GW was hit with a $2,000 fine and two violations from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs over winter break, including one for a disabled smoke system, agency spokesman Helder Gil said. Students are barred from using the two out-of-service elevators – congesting the two working elevators – until GW provides proper documentation to the regulatory body, which will reinspect the facilities over the next week.

The violations come on the heels of dozens of student complaints about building elevators. Students said they have been trapped in elevators in buildings including Schenley, Strong, City and Ivory halls, with others reporting elevators that suddenly dropped several floors and temporarily trapped students. Sororities in Strong Hall told members to avoid the elevators last December, after one dropped several floors on the way down.

The elevator contractor was conducting maintenance when he “was informed that [GW] would be required to apply for and receive a permit, which was not the understanding of the contractor given past experience with this type of work," Senior Associate Vice President of Operations Administration John Ralls said. He said the elevators will be back in service after the regulatory agency processes the permits. GW is appealing the Ivory Tower fine.

“Following notification of this request from DCRA, the university's contractor took all steps necessary to have the requested permit issued and inspection conducted and is currently awaiting action by DCRA,” he said in an email.

With two elevators out of service, Ivory Tower residents have been frustrated by long lines in the 10-floor building’s lobby, particularly during move-in last weekend. Some students have also said they don’t feel safe taking the elevators that are running, instead choosing to take the stairs.

Ninth-floor Ivory resident Jordan Halevy said he has been caught in one of the building’s elevators before.

“Usually, one elevator will not be working, and that’s inconvenient in itself,” Halevy, a junior, said. “Now with two, it’s even more so. It’s really annoying and it takes forever.”

When asked how many times University police had responded to elevator outages, University Police Chief Kevin Hay said Jan. 8, ”Elevator outages during this academic year have not been higher or lower than previous years.”

University officials have refused multiple times this academic year to release the number of reports of malfunctioning elevator to FixIT or UPD. The department records when someone is stuck in the system.

GW has invested millions of dollars in elevator and building upgrades in its residence halls in recent years. Upgrades to Guthridge cost $2.05 million in fiscal year in 2012, followed by a combined $3 million in upgrades to Munson, Dakota and Strong halls in fiscal year 2013.

One elevator replacement in The Dakota about $300,000, according to GW's 2013 capital and operating budget.

Junior Alex Theofanides said it’s never been this bad.

“We pay so much money to go here. They can at least have working elevators,” said Theofanides, who added that she didn't know the elevators were shut down by the city.

Another Ivory resident, senior Alexander Zafran, said there have been times none of the elevators work.

“Sometimes you get a nice surprise in the morning when there are no elevators working. So it’s always important to expect the unexpected,” he said.

Anuyha Bobba and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.

This article was updated Jan. 23, 2013 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Alexander Zafran is a junior. He is a senior. We regret this error.

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