The irony is so self-evident and tragic it writes itself: To reach the Disabled Students Programs and Services office on the third floor of Rosenberg Library, students who are not able to use the stairs must take an elevator. But the student elevator has been broken for so long many people don’t remember the last time it was regularly in service.
The Facilities Department was not able to provide The Guardsman the date when the outage started, but most people remember it breaking permanently around Thanksgiving.
“It’s a bad situation,” said Donna Reed, dean of library and learning resources.
There are two elevators, located side-by-side, at Rosenberg Library—one for students and one for staff. Because the staff elevator also opens to restricted parts of the building it requires a key to use.
For more than four months, students who cannot use the stairs have been forced to find a staff member with a key to escort them to the staff elevator. Signs have been posted next to the elevator letting students know where on each floor a staff member with a key can be found.
Worse, the staff elevator periodically breaks, too, leaving people who cannot use the stairs without any means of traveling between floors.
Anthony Costa, department chair of Rosenberg Library, said there have been times when he has been unable to escort students to their tutoring appointments because both elevators were broken. “They basically had to give up,” he said.
Rueben Smith, interim vice chancellor of facilities, said at a facilities committee meeting on Feb. 26 that the elevator outage was caused by a roof leak that allowed rainwater to reach the control system.
Costa said the roof has been leaking for years. “We’ve had to move books out of the way” when rainwater has crept into the library, he said.
While the roof leak is being addressed, fixing the elevator “is not a simple repair,” Smith said at the facilities committee meeting in February. Because of the elevator’s vintage, he said, replacement parts are not available. The manufacturer, Kone, must fabricate new parts, which will take some time.
City College has a service contract with Kone, but these repairs fall outside of routine service because of the water damage, Smith said.
An agenda item has been added to the board of trustees meeting on March 22 to approve a sole source contract of $123,820. At the facilities committee meeting in February, Smith said Kone had already started fabricating the parts even though they knew the contract had not yet been approved. “They know they’re taking a risk,” he said.
Smith told The Guardsman in an email on March 19 that Kone would provide an estimated delivery date after the agenda item is approved and a purchase order is issued.
Several staff members expressed frustration at the long outage and said that both elevators being out presented a safety issue and a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Leilani Battiste, City College’s ADA coordinator, said she had not received any formal ADA complaints about the elevators.
“I’m aware of the suffering,” said Health Education Instructor Vicki Legion at the February facilities committee meeting. “I’ve been with disabled people who have had to wait (to use the elevator). It is very humiliating.”
To help alleviate the problem, Reed said staff at Rosenberg Library decided to place a member of staff by the elevators at all times. “We’ll now have a staff member coming down regularly, proactively looking for students down there,” she said.
Reed also said that facilities are on “high alert” for staff elevator outages. “If we tell them the staff elevator has problems, they come over and fix it as quickly as they can.” She said a system reboot often fixes the problem, but it had not gone down for a couple weeks.
“It tends to break several times in a row, then be steady for a while,” she said.
Reed said she understands how frustrating the situation is.
“If you’re a student and see the elevator broken day after day, and you don’t know why, you may be tempted to think no one cares. But in fact people are very engaged and working on it,” she said. “From the chancellor down to me and my staff, everyone thinks this is a top priority and is concerned about it.”