Audit: Broken elevators, escalators plague NYC subways

Sasha Blair-Goldensohn relies on four subway elevators to get to work. If any one of those elevators breaks down, which Blair-Goldensohn estimates occurs an average of once every week, he said he struggles to make it to work and often receives no warning ahead of time, aboard his train or online.

"It's always a surprise," he said. "So you get there and it's like: 'Oh, nobody cared?'"

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer released the results of an audit of the MTA's elevators and escalators Monday revealing what he called "a maintenance mess."

"It's a problem that has plagued us for years," Stringer said. "They break down."

The comptroller's audit found that the MTA failed to complete scheduled maintenance on nearly 80 percent of the elevators and escalators the report sampled.

"We knew something was wrong but we didn't know how bad," said state Sen. Daniel Squadron, who joined the comptroller in criticizing the MTA with the help of Disabled in Action Vice President of Legislative Affairs Edith Prentiss.

"People just think if the elevator's not working, you stay home," Prentiss said. "You get a day off from work. Well, that could mean you're getting fired."

Stringer's audit examined 65 elevators and escalators across the city. It found the MTA also often failed to properly track new defects when it found them. Stringer argued that all that neglected maintenance posed safety risks to riders, disrupted service, and both isolated and further disadvantaged the disabled.

"Any trip you take on the subway, if you need an elevator to get in or out is a roll of the dice," Blair-Goldensohn said.

In a statement, an MTA spokeswoman said that New York City Transit is spending more than a billion dollars to install and replace elevators and escalators and that the MTA had completed all of its most in-depth inspections during the audit period.