Coney Island public housing complexes to get new elevators

Jasmine Freeman-Jones, a resident of Coney Island Houses on 28th Street, said she has been stuck in the elevator twice.
Photo by Joe Hiti

Three Coney Island public housing complexes are getting 19 new elevators over the next five years as part of a $450 million effort to revamp the city’s public housing stock — and residents say the repairs are a long time coming.

“They’re always a problem,” said Malik Moody, who lives in Coney Island Houses on 28th Street by Mermaid Avenue, which will get six new elevators. “Sh– be skipping and sometimes it takes you to the roof and you have to take it back down.”

The remaining 13 elevator upgrades will service the Unity Houses on Surf Avenue and W. 20th Street, and the Carey Gardens on Surf Avenue and W. 24th Street. 

The project — which will be completely funded by the state — will dedicate $7.6 million for the fixes to the three locations in the People’s Playground, where residents have endured skipped floors, faulty elevator buttons, and service outages for years.

“They jump, skip floors, and get stuck. I’ve been stuck twice,” said Jasmine Freeman-Jones, a resident of the Coney Island Houses, where elevators shut down twice per month on average.

Meanwhile, elevators at Unity Houses and Carey Gardens go out about once a month, affecting disabled and elderly residents — who make up between 20 and 28 percent of the buildings’ population, said the local state assemblywoman. 

“It’s a burden,” said Mathylde Frontus (D–Coney Island). “I see a lot of elevator complaints.” 

The new elevators won’t be completed at the Coney Island Houses until Aug. of 2022, while the Unity Houses and Carey Gardens won’t see new elevators until the beginning of 2023 — 30 years after the current, dilapidated elevators were installed, according to Housing Authority data. 

A spokesman for the federal agency overseeing the project promised that construction workers will not renovate all the elevators at the same time, leaving some still-functioning lifts at all times — but many residents are dreading the coming construction.

“That’s bad. That’s frustrating,” said Freeman-Jones about the length of the project. 

Local Councilman Mark Treyger claimed the years-long time horizon is common for public housing projects, which are notoriously over schedule and over budget — like the recent renovation to a Surfside Community Gardens, which took more than seven years to complete.

“I do not understand why it will take so long,” Treyger said about the estimated timeframe for the new elevators. “I think it took a year to build the Empire State Building.” 

Treyger also called for stricter oversight of the project to ensure the repairs don’t drag on. 

“[The Housing Authority] needs to be held to account for using this money wisely and in a timely fashion,” he said.

New York City Housing Authority representatives did not respond to multiple requests for comment by press time.

—Additional reporting by Joe Hiti.