Toronto

'It's a risky building': High-rise dwellers lament broken elevators amid COVID-19 crisis

People who live in Toronto high-rise are frustrated when they're forced to choose between long wait times for working elevators or trips up many flights of stairs — a situation some warn is exacerbated amid the COVID-19 pandemic as residents are encouraged to only enter elevators three at a time.

High-rise residents have 'valid' concerns over elevator service, mayor acknowledges

Katherine Anthony has been living at 14 York St, part of the two-building ICE condo complex, for the last five years, and says broken elevators are a regular occurrence in her building. She worries the hassle is now even riskier amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jon Castell/CBC News)

On a good day, Katherine Anthony says she can get downstairs "fairly quickly" from her rental unit on the 45th floor of a downtown Toronto high-rise.

But the problem, she adds, is those good days are few and far between.

Anthony has been living at 14 York St., part of the two-building ICE condo complex across from Scotiabank Centre, for the last five years, and says broken elevators are a regular occurrence in the complex.

Though she can't fathom leaving her rent-controlled suite, she says high-rise dwellers like herself are frustrated when they're forced to choose between long wait times for working elevators or trips up many flights of stairs — a situation she feels is exacerbated amid the COVID-19 pandemic as residents are encouraged to only enter elevators three at a time.

"It's a risky building," Anthony says.

And it's not the only one, other Toronto residents tell CBC News.

'I'm concerned'

Mike Ford, a resident at 125 Western Battery Rd. in Liberty Village, says his building has had at least one of its three elevators down since early March.

Like Anthony's building, the 30-floor tower is only allowing three people on board each trip, in hopes of boosting safety through physical distancing. But Ford says the weeks-long wait for repairs poses a safety risk of its own.

"I'm concerned for the elderly and immuno-compromised folks in our building who do not have the option to take stairs and may have to get on an unsafe elevator," he says

One tenant says elevators being broken at downtown Toronto high-rise 14 York St. is a regular occurrence. (Jon Castell/CBC News)

Resident Amie Krasnozon agrees a lack of elevators could make it harder for people to keep a safe distance from each other.

She says at times since she moved in last August, it's taken more than 30 minutes for her to get from her 25th floor unit to the ground due to a lack of elevators.

"What would happen if a medical emergency occurred?" she asks.

It's a 'real challenge,' mayor says

Christine Miljak, property manager for 125 Western Battery Rd., says in an email to CBC News that the building does have three operational elevators at this time, but that one is on service for moving and emergencies only. The building expects to have the third available for use to all residents the week of May 11, she adds.

"We have also encouraged the residents, if they use the stairs, to use Stairwell A when exiting the building and Stairwell B when entering the building [to] help with social distancing at this time," Miljak said.

CBC News also reached out to the property managers for the ICE condo complex but did not receive a response by publishing time.

According to tenant advocate Geordie Dent, concerns about repair issues, safety, and cleanliness are common right now amid the COVID-19 pandemic — at buildings all across the city.

Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations, wants more action from the city on tenant concerns over building repairs. (Lauren Pelley/CBC News)

"A lot of this stuff has been predicted, and we've been talking about it for years that you've really got to clean up these buildings," says Dent, the executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations.

Dent says he's long hoped for more action from city hall.

When asked about the elevator issue by CBC News on Monday, Mayor John Tory said it's a "real challenge."

He added the city has looked into similar concerns since before the COVID-19 crisis, but said given the number of buildings in Toronto, there is high demand for repairs and "only so many elevator repair people to go around.

"We'll see if there's anything I can do to move that forward," he added.

"It's a valid concern."

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