Les Gertrude, the grande dame Broad Street apartment building that’s long been troubled by balky elevators, is getting a new pair of lifts.
At a meeting Tuesday night involving tenants, the landlord and a clutch of local officials, plans to replace the elevators in the 78-year-old buildingand the impacts on residentswere discussed.
Mayor Pasquale Menna, who was among those present, said the purpose of the meeting was to let the tenants know what to expect during the disruption and to assure them that their safety won’t be compromised.
The five-story building at the corner of Pinckney Road actually consists of two towers whose floors don’t connect, except at the basement level. Because of that separation, an outage of one or both elevators is a major headache, particularly to senior tenants, some of whom have difficulty negotiating the stairs.
Problems with the lifts have not been infrequent in recent years. In September, 2004, a fifth-floor tenant who relied on an oxygen tank to ease her breathing returned home from surgery to find the elevator in her tower out of commission, according to a letter she later wrote to the Hub. Fire department volunteers transported her up to the roof in the second lift, across the roof, and down to her apartment.
More recently, there have been complaints about problems centered on the heavy, iron-bar gates that must be opened or closed by hand for the elevator to operate. An improperly closed gate would result in the elevator not responding to calls from other floors. A device installed to address the problem was outlawed by the state as unsafe.
“That building has probably the most antique elevator of any in Central Jersey,” said Menna. But for years, the state Department of Community Affairs rules did not require the elevators to be replaced. New rules in effect, though, will require replacements, he said. “It’s a state mandate.”
Present at what Menna termed a “very, very frank and cordial meeting” were the landlord, Dr. Marc Gelber; the contractors who will do the work; Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels; and councilmen Arthur Murphy and Michael DuPont.
The turnout of borough government representatives, Menna said, was “to assure the tenants that the fire chief and the police chief have said that safety will not be compromised, and response times will not be any different in the event of an emergency.” The main reason, he said, is that emergency personnel don’t use elevators when responding to calls.
At the meeting, Gelber agreed to have his maintenance staff take mail up to tenants and take their trash down, and to arrange for deliveries of groceries, pharmaceuticals and other items directly to tenants’ doors.
Menna did not have information on when the work would begin or how long it might take to complete. A call to Gelber at Gelber Associates in Millburn was not returned.
The firm’s website lists apartments for rent from $1,400 to $1,900 a month.