School Wants Special Elevator To Accomodate Observant Jewish Students

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Residents of a six-story Upper West Side apartment building are in a fight over a slow elevator.

Touro College rents about half of the units at its building at 10 West 65th Street to observant Jewish students.

Touro wanted one of two elevators at the building slowed down to help students comply with Sabbath rules against operating machinery.

The specialized elevator service would automatically stop on each floor from sunset Friday until sunset Saturday.

Delays for the elevator would be about 83 seconds and rent-stabilized tenants in 33 of the 86 apartments, most of whom are elderly, said that’s unacceptable.

“We only have two elevators in the building and Saturday is usually the day when most of the tenants do their laundry and do their shopping,” James Berry, president of the Tenants Association, told 1010 WINS. “That would just take away one elevator that we use to get all that done. And the tenants, most of them, are not able to use the stairs.”

The state authority that regulates rents sided with the elderly tenants in April.

Touro College said that ruling violates civil rights laws and has sued the agency.

The Tenants Association charges Touro has turned the building into a dormitory in violation of its certificate of occupancy.

“They have not amended their certificate of occupancy since 1938. So we don’t know what this building is — is it a dormitory or is it a residential building?” Berry said. “If it’s a residential building then why would you have a Sabbath elevator unless all the tenants want it?”

Touro College released a statement that read, in part:

“It is unfortunate that the state’s Department of Housing and Community Renewal chose to intervene at the request of some of the tenants — who, in the most offensive and discriminatory way — objected to this practice.”

“We therefore are seeking relief through a judicial proceeding to allow us, as property owner, to operate the building in a manner that is compatible with the religious practices of its student tenants and which poses minimum disruption to other residents.”

“Ultimately, we believe this matter can be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties in an amicable manner. Our aim is for all residents to live in and enjoy this building.”

The Division of Housing and Community Renewal declined to comment.

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