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Some Queens residents who had homes raised after Superstorm Sandy now paying thousands for elevator lift repairs

Some Queens residents who had homes raised report frequent elevator lift problems
Some Queens residents who had homes raised report frequent elevator lift problems 02:10

NEW YORK - Some Queens residents who had their homes raised after Superstorm Sandy are facing new issues; their elevator lifts aren't working and fixing them is costing thousands of dollars.

Matthew Doxsey has lived in Hamilton Beach for more than six decades.

"I love it here. I like to go boating. I fish. I really enjoy the water, and it's something that's in my blood, like a lot of people around here," he said.

He lives along a canal in his childhood home, which was elevated after Superstorm Sandy as part of the city's "Build It Back" program. Construction included a small outdoor elevator, installed for access to the raised front door. 

Living with cancer and COPD, he says the lift allows him to bypass the steep flight of stairs. But when lifts like his come in contact with salt water, there's a problem.

"They basically don't work," he said.

The equipment can short-circuit when flooded. Repairs and replacements come with a wait and can cost thousands.

"I've had to have my lift serviced five times in the past three years," he said. "This thing is bleeding me dry."

At the southern edge of the borough, in the shadow of John F. Kennedy International Airport, the effects of climate change are felt acutely. Coastal flooding has become routine, sometimes submerging the neighborhood in feet of water.

Roger Gendron, president of the New Hamilton Beach Civic Association, says dozens of homes were elevated as part of "Build It Back," and lift malfunctioning is widespread.

"It's not just an issue here in Hamilton Beach — people in Howard Beach, people in Broad Channel, Breezy Point, wherever lifts were installed, anywhere," he said.

Dr. Sharon McLennon Wier is executive director of the Center of Independence for the Disabled (CIDNY). She says people with disabilities are disproportionately endangered and displaced by extreme weather.

"Lifting houses that are near water makes a lot of sense. But how do we build elevators that are not going to be affected by salt and wind?" she said. 

Matthew Doxsey is taking it upon himself to design a fix. He plans to build a water-resistant enclosure for his lift. If that doesn't work, he says he might have to move away from the neighborhood that raised him.

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