Most elevator accidents that occur in New York City are caused by human error, and happen in elevators that were recently repaired, city officials revealed yesterday.

At a Council hearing pushing for tougher elevator safety regulations, Department of Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri said 19 people have died in elevator accidents since 2003. Most of the accidents were caused by human error during a recent repair, he said.

The hearing followed several deaths, including that of Suzanne Hart, 41, who was crushed to death in December when her Midtown office elevator shot up suddenly. After Hart's death, a Buildings Department investigation blamed maintenance work that disabled a safety device.

A mechanic was also fatally electrocuted while working on an elevator in March.


LiMandri told the Council he supports a city bill that would require elevator mechanics to be licensed.

"We know we have to target the people that are doing the work," LiMandri told reporters after the hearing. "We need to make sure they're qualified."

Supporters of the bill, proposed yesterday, are pushing to require every elevator mechanic in the city to be licensed under a city-mandated test.

Bronx Councilman James Vacca pointed out that workers like plumbers and electricians are required to have licenses. Even "pawn dealers are licensed," he said.

Queens Councilman Peter Vallone chimed in that under the regulations now, "My cousin Vinny could be inspecting the elevator in your building."

LiMandri said he supports licensing. "So that when you walk into an elevator, you know that the person who was in there five minutes before is trained."

10 percent of US elevators here in city

new york. An estimated 10 percent of the country's elevators -- about 60,000 -- are in New York City. And lifts here are 14 to 17 times more likely to be in accidents than in states where mechanics are licensed, Councilman James Vacca said yesterday. "New York City has some of the strictest inspection requirements in the country. That said, it does not have the strictest requirements for mechanics," said DOB Commissioner Robert LiMandri.

Not all are in agreement

Nicholas La Guardia, director of the Joint Committees of the Elevator Industry, a group of elevator mechanics, called the legislation "a recipe for disaster." He said mechanics already face strict requirements, and added that technicians on serious jobs would likely have met requirements to be licensed already.

"The licensure of all mechanics would not have prevented these accidents," he said. "It would only provide a false sense of security to the riding public."

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