Seniors call on owners to fix elevator that hardly works at Ypsilanti high rise

Posted at 6:33 PM, Jul 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-25 18:39:02-04

People who live in the Towne Centre Apartments on Michigan Avenue in Ypsilanti say they feel like they are periodically prisoners in their own homes. 

They say the elevators in their buildings have been regularly unreliable for the last six months. In recent weeks, only one of two elevators is working at all, and only for minutes at a time.

“They are threatening my life,” said Edward Windom, a 5th floor resident. 

Windom relies on a wheel chair to get around. He says when the elevators don’t work he is trapped either inside or outside his apartment. 

Last week a doctor tried to visit him twice. 

“The problem is the doctors can’t come to see me. I need my prescription’s refilled,” said Windom.

The 170 apartment building with eleven floors is home to many elderly and disabled. 

7 Action News spoke to one health care professional who arrived to give a man a life preserving shot. She was preparing herself for a walk up ten flights of stairs.

A health professional unable to physically handle the climb up so many stairs contacted the building department last week. 

Ypsilanti has since inspected the building and reached out to its owners. The city says it is giving the company a little bit of time to address it, but watching closely for action. They don’t want to have to condemn the building and leave people in 170 apartments searching for a place to go.

The city notified the fire chief, who has worked out  a plan with neighboring fire departments should there be a fire at the building. 

When there is a fire in such a building, the elevator automatically goes to the ground floor. It is then only operated with an emergency key that firefighters have. If it is safe, firefighters use elevators for evacuation.

Without an elevator, firefighters would need extra manpower to rescue people.

7 Action News reached out to Forest City, the company that owns the building. It is a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. 

According to its 2015 financial report it has $10 billion in assets. 

People who live in the building say in discussions with local managers they have been told that a request was submitted years ago for funding to fix the elevators. They have been unreliable for at least six months. It was turned down. 

A corporate spokesperson tells 7 Action News that it took action to fix the problem as soon as it learned about it a few weeks ago, when they stopped working for a majority of the time. We were also told a new generator needs to be installed on the roof to power the elevators. 

That should happen in the next 7 to 10 days. Residents are hoping it doesn’t take longer than that. Just those seven to ten days are a burden.

“I can’t get up the stairs,” said Martha Rehder, a 6th floor resident who relies on a wheelchair. “I am physically unable to do that.  It is your building.  You need to do something, whatever it is you need to do.”