Mind the gap

ST/PCV moms share tales of toddlers’ hands getting stuck in elevators doors

By Sabina Mollot

If your young child ever got his or her hand stuck behind the door of an elevator, you’re not alone.

Two weeks ago, a Stuyvesant Town toddler broke her finger after her hand got stuck into a gap in the moving elevator door in her building. Then, after it happened, the girl’s mother posted a warning to other parents on a local Facebook group, only to then hear from several other parents that the same thing had happened to their children over the years, in Stuyvesant Town as well as other places.

The girl’s mom also later spoke to Town & Village about the incident, which she was shocked to learn was a relatively common occurrence.

The mother, who asked that her name not be used, said on September 21, she and her daughter arrived on the T level in her building and when the elevator door opened, the girl put her hand on the inside of the door.

“I lunged, but not fast enough,” her mom said. When the door opened fully, it pulled the girl’s hand into the gap that hides the inner door, trapping her hand into a very narrow space. After a few minutes of pulling and screaming (on both the mother and daughter’s parts), they were able to get the girl’s hand free. A trip to NYU Langone confirmed that her ring finger had been broken.

The mom noted that in the past few months, she had seen caution stickers going up in buildings advising residents not to let their children near the doors. However, her building didn’t have one.

Fortunately, the mom added, following the incident, management was responsive to the issue. When she spoke with T&V, it was after she said ST/PCV general manager Rick Hayduk had committed to have the elevator company, Otis, come to Stuy Town to do an audit of the elevators to see if the gap between the doors is larger than normal and if some sort of protective device would need to be installed. As of last Thursday, she said she was told that the audit already happened, and the conclusion was that the gap size is “not over-large.”

The mother said she still hopes management considers installing some sort of protective technology.

“I hope something comes from that,” she said, adding that her daughter’s finger is fortunately healing more quickly than doctors expected.

Meanwhile, a few other moms also spoke with Town & Village about how the same thing happened to their kids in recent years in their Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village buildings.

Catherine Rasco said in 2011, her two-year-old son got his hand stuck into the gap in the door, though she was fortunately able to wrench his arm out.

“I’m not neglectful but he was insanely fast,” she recalled. She later took her son to be x-rayed, but fortunately he wasn’t injured beyond some bruising. Rasco, who now lives in Connecticut, added she was annoyed to hear the same thing has continued to happen and said there ought to be some sort of sensor that detects a stuck hand.

Another Stuy Town resident said she lived in Peter Cooper Village last year when her toddler daughter’s hand got stuck in the gap as the door was starting to close.

“She got her hand stuck right in the pocket of the door,” recalled the mom, who asked that her name not be used. The mom, who believes the girl’s hand had gotten pulled in due to pressure, was able to yank her hand back out. “I pulled as hard as I could and it released her hand,” she said. “Luckily, it was just bruised.”

Because the incident occurred on a Sunday, the girl’s mother wasn’t able to take her to the pediatrician, and instead just monitored her condition. Ultimately, “we didn’t end up taking her to the doctor. It was scary. I got lucky, thank God. Until it happened, I didn’t know it could happen.”

She added that after she moved into her current building, she saw a sticker put up in the elevator a couple of months later advising residents not to let their children near the door. “They didn’t exist when we moved in so this must have happened to other people when the stickers started going up,” she guessed.

Another mom, Holly Tupper Gannon, said her then 21-month-old son got his hand stuck in the elevator gap two summers ago after returning from the playground.

“He tripped and put his hand on the door to catch himself,” she said, which led to the boy’s hand getting pulled into the pocket of the elevator door as it slid to the side.

“It got into this little pocket and his hand was wedged between the elevator doors and where it slides back in.”

Tupper Gannon called 911 and responders from the Fire Department came quickly. Using a crowbar to widen the gap, a firefighter was able to free her son’s hand. He was then taken via ambulance to the hospital, but despite the fact that his finger appeared somewhat flattened, nothing was broken.

Meanwhile, after the rescue, Tupper Gannon said the firefighters told her, “‘This happens all the time.’ They said this happens with some frequency and not just in Stuy Town.”

Town & Village reached out to Otis but did not hear back.

Paula Chirhart, a spokesperson for StuyTown Property Services and Blackstone, confirmed the recent injury and also confirmed that the elevators have since been inspected and found to be up to code. Chirhart also said they undergo regular inspections.

She added, “We were sorry to learn about the incident and have been in touch with the family since they alerted us on Friday evening. Ensuring the safety of our tenants, and especially their children, is always our main priority. To this end, we installed stickers this past summer on all Stuy Town elevators advising parents to be mindful of their children around the doors. SPS is looking at ways to further the visibility of this message – including educational notices in resident communique and an immediate review to replace any stickers that may have been inadvertently removed.”

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