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'Prisoner in our own home': Elevators have been out in Harlem building for months

Posted at 6:11 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 18:11:54-04

HARLEM, Manhattan — Residents of one Harlem building feel trapped in their homes.

The elevators haven't worked in the seven-story building on 124th Street for the last five months, residents said. The building has 98 apartments and it cater to low-income New Yorkers with Section 8 vouchers.

It's called Gema Hall, but tenant Denise Kingsberry said residents have another name for it.

“We call it Germa Hall," Kingsberry said. "It's filled with problems."

Kingsberry has lived in the building for seven years. She lives on the third floor and can barely walk with a cane. Kingsberry and her neighbors, mostly seniors, said they feel trapped inside their homes.

“It's like we are a prisoner in our own home. It doesn’t make any sense,” said Kingsberry.

Because it’s a single room occupancy building, Kingsberry said they are not allowed to put in air conditioners without a doctor’s note. Alfredo Ramos, who lives on the second floor, said he’s miserable.

“This is ridiculous. This the worst place I have ever lived in my life," Ramos said.

The NYC Department of Social Services confirmed the building is owned by Columba Kavanagh House, a nonprofit that caters to Section 8 and offers transitional housing. PIX11 called management. They have not returned calls at this time.

“We have made clear that the pace of repairs to date has been wholly unacceptable and we are taking steps to strengthen compliance with our standards, ensuring more timely repairs moving forward," a DSS spokesperson said.

The NYC Department of Buildings said it has issued four violations since January, and will expedite any inspection requests related to this elevator.

Kingsberry said she can’t wait another day.

“l hope they fix this situation or I have to move. I have to get out of here for my health," Kingsberry said. "These stairs are killing me."

If you have a story, reach out to Monica Morales at Monica@pix11.com