Empire State Plaza Hires New Director After Audit Reveals Elevator Safety Lapses
Elevators at the Empire State Plaza went unrepaired for months despite 32 maintenance deficiencies, according to an audit released by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The audit prompted the Office of General Services (OGS) to assign a new director and deputy director of plaza operations to properly oversee elevator maintenance.
"Safety is of the utmost importance to the thousands of New Yorkers who rely on Plaza elevators and escalators every day," Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said. "It's up to OGS to make sure that their contractors do timely repairs to ensure public safety."
The audit was one of two elevator maintenance reports released by DiNapoli as part of his statewide reviews of $21.5 million in elevator maintenance contracts.
The Comptroller's audit found that OGS failed to charge the Schindler Elevator Corporation more than $200,000 in liquidated damages for its failure to repair 32 maintenance deficiencies at the Plaza for at least five months, which was a breach of Schindler's $2.5 million contract.
DiNapoli's auditors uncovered the safety lapses in a review of six months of equipment maintenance services at the plaza. Auditors concluded that the plaza facilities manager lacked "the knowledge, skills or ability to carry out" his responsibilities of ensuring that Schindler complied with its contract, increasing the risks for elevator and escalator riders and possibly boosting the likelihood of future repairs.
In response to the audit, OGS stated it had "brought in new senior management" for plaza operations, "re-assigned existing staff and also added more staff" and will use a separate inspector to double-check Schindler's work. OGS's full response is included in the audit.
Schindler maintains elevators, escalators, dumbwaiters and other such equipment in state-operated buildings in the Albany area, including the plaza and Executive Mansion.
In addition, the audit found that:
- OGS allowed Schindler to keep its liability insurance at $2 million per occurrence, while the contract requires $5 million per occurrence.
- OGS paid Schindler nearly $7,000 for 24 preventive maintenance checks that Schindler may not have performed.
In a separate audit, DiNapoli's office concluded that the Office of Mental Health's Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Suffolk County did not verify that Centennial Elevator Industries, Inc. performed services required under its $1.6 million contract. Pilgrim also paid the company $23,000 for work that was not performed and $3,900 for services that weren't verified, the audit found. As a result, Pilgrim will no longer process invoices until all document requirements are verified.
Overall, DiNapoli's statewide audits found that elevators are not receiving the proper preventive maintenance inspections needed to ensure safety across the state even though the state was paying for these services.
As of February 2012, the state had paid $49 million on 240 active contracts with 37 vendors for elevator maintenance valued at $114 million.
For a copy of the Empire State Plaza audit, go to:
For a copy of the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center audit, go to: http://osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/bse2011-0001omh.pdf
For copies of previous audits, go to:
Buffalo State College - http://osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/p2009-0333.htm
SUNY Binghamton - http://osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093011/20100391.htm
CUNY's Baruch College - http://osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/p2010-0397.htm
SUNY Stony Brook - http://osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/p2009-0378.htm