Residents of Peternana Terrace, a senior independent living apartment complex at 45 Wallace St. in Freeport, have been inconvenienced recently after the sole elevator in the building broke down on June 21. The five-story complex houses retired seniors, who rely on the elevator to get in and out of the building.
Representatives of Catholic Charities said last Thursday that it might take six to eight weeks to repair the elevator. Catholic Charities spokesman Umberto Mignardi said helping the residents is the organization’s top priority.
“The most important thing is that we make sure that [residents] feel comfortable and unafraid,” Mignardi said. “They are our clients, and we want to make sure they are okay.”
According to Mignardi, the elevator is inoperable because of mechanical issues. Maintenance workers are repairing it. “They have crews working six days a week, 12 hours a day. Mechanically, we are progressing,” Mignardi said.
One resident, Lucette Jorgenson, 96, said she knew her neighbors were having trouble getting down the stairs, and hasn’t seen them come down in a few weeks. “There are many people who cannot walk at all,” she said. “I haven’t seen them come down from their rooms since the elevator. The security men bring the people with canes or walkers up and down, but the people in wheelchairs cannot walk at all and cannot make it.”
Catholic Charities owns Peternana Terrace, in addition to 16 other housing facilities in Nassau and Suffolk counties, totaling 1,329 apartments. The Stanan Management Corporation runs the Freeport complex, which along with the Catholic Charities is providing two on-call medical personnel and increased security to aid residents.
According to Mignardi, Catholic Charities is making sure that residents receive groceries, medications and their mail, and there’s a free laundry service. In additional to these services, the organization also offered all residents the option of temporary housing at a hotel with kitchenettes and other amenities. Mignardi said Catholic Charities is covering the expenses of the temporary housing, but only three of 130 residents opted to move out. The residents will return to their apartments after the repairs.
Family and friends of residents, like Freeporter Cynthia DuBois Stuart, have turned to social media to express their concerns about the elevator. Stuart’s 76-year-old mother, Betty DuBois, is a third-floor resident of Peternana Terrace who uses a walker, but has taken advantage of the optional housing. Through her social media, Stuart said she was able to rally other concerned members of the community to voice concerns about the long wait for repairs, and on July 5, she stood outside the building to protest.
“They’ve been trying to be helpful. I think a lot of seniors are afraid to make noise,” Stuart said, “because they don’t have family support like my mother and they’re afraid of retaliation.
“They need to hurry up,” Stuart said of Catholic Charities. “We’re making it work. While the accommodations are helpful, we are here to take care of what [my mother] needs, but she’s not where she needs to be, which is in her home.”
In spite what appear to be earnest efforts to repair the elevator as quickly as possible, Catholic Charities has come under scrutiny after the death of Madison Caldwell, an 82-year-old resident of the building who died on July 4. It had been reported by other news outlets that Caldwell’s death was a result of cardiac arrest after having to take the stairs.
However, Lynne Reddy, Catholic Charities’ social service coordinator, said Caldwell left the building in a “totally non-emergency state,” adding that the elevator issues were not related to Caldwell’s death. Reddy also said she had been in touch with Caldwell’s children and his home health aide, who confirmed to Reddy that his death was a result of a preexisting condition.
Though the repairs are under way, according to Mignardi, there isn’t an estimated completion date yet, aside from six to eight weeks.
Nadya Nataly contributed to this story.