‘It's abuse': Residents fed up with elevator breakdowns in Boston Housing Authority building

Several residents with disabilities have struggled to meet basic needs like buying groceries and getting to doctors' appointments since the elevator broke down on Sept. 14

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The Boston Housing Authority is coming under fire for an accessibility problem at an apartment complex it manages.

Lisandra Montes, who requires a wheelchair to get around, has been stranded in her fifth-floor apartment since the only elevator in her South End building broke down more than a week ago.



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Montes has Spina Bifida, which can happen when a baby’s spinal cord doesn’t develop properly in the womb. She said she has missed multiple doctors' appointments for that, among other conditions, because she couldn't get out of her own apartment in the public housing facility at 19 Monsignor Reynolds Way.

"It really needs to stop, because I'm sick and tired of this abuse. And that's exactly what it is — it's abuse," Montes told NBC10 Boston Monday. "There's moments I want to go out with family members, or my own mom has said, 'Let's go out.' I'm like, 'No.' Because I'm afraid that once I'm downstairs, I won't be able to go back up."

Residents said elevator breakdowns are a frequent occurrence for the six-story building, which was built in 1950 as part of the Ruth Barkley Development. Most people have been taking the stairs since a flyer was taped to the first-floor elevator on Sept. 14 stating the elevator was out of service "until further notice."

Since then, several residents in the building who have disabilities have struggled to meet basic needs like shopping for groceries and going to doctors' appointments, prompting accessibility advocates to call on the Boston Housing Authority to address the issue.

"There's a lot of problems besides just that the elevator doesn't work. It's how frequently, and how residents are treated as though they just have to wait for a resolution," said Dawn Oates, founder of The Play Brigade. "You have a 33-year-old hydraulic elevator — it's one of the oldest elevators like this in the country. Parts are going to be scarce, but even worse — there are going to be fewer and fewer people who are able to fix these."

The Boston Housing Authority placed an expedited order for a replacement part being shipped from the West Coast, according to a statement from the agency, but they did not provide an exact timeline on when the elevator would be fixed.

"The residents don't want to hear those excuses anymore," Oates said. "They want to know specifics. They want to know, 'How much longer am I going to be trapped like a caged animal in my home? How long am I going to be afraid to leave and not know if I can get back in?'"

Boston Housing Authority spokesman Brian Jordan noted that $6 million in capital funding is currently earmarked to upgrade the elevators throughout the complex, which will be scheduled "as soon as possible," and an additional $100,000 emergency fund was allocated for the FY2023 elevator service contract.

"We recognize that elevator disruptions are highly frustrating for residents, and share their frustration as their welfare is our top priority," Jordan said in a statement. "We have been working diligently with our elevator contractor to have it repaired as soon as possible."

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