Lawrence v. Bay State drags on in Housing Court

PAUL BILODEAU/Staff photoWhile repairs have been made at the Bay State Building in Lawrence, one elevator remains out of service four months after the city asked the court to place the building into receivership.

LAWRENCE – Lawyers for the city and the owners of the Bay State building continued their battle in Housing Court on Wednesday about the repairs still needed at the troubled building, four months after the city asked the court to hand the building to a receiver who would do the work and bill the owners.

Housing Court Judge Fairlie Dalton credited the owners with correcting the long list of building, housing and fire code violations that the city cited when it asked her to appoint a receiver on March 16, including broken sprinklers, exposed wiring, an infestation of vermin, moldy hallway carpets, and the stench of vomit and urine in the stairways.

Dalton expressed exasperation over the remaining work and focused on an elevator that has been out of service for years, which the owners – in an effort to block losing the building to a receiver – had said would repaired by June 8. A second elevator is back in service after months of chronic breakdowns, stranding several disabled tenants on the upper floors of the seven-story building and posing hardships for others. Among them was Anaysha Sosa, a seventh-floor tenant who has a 2-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son and was eight months pregnant.

“Enough time has been invested to get it done,” Dalton told Jen Barnett, a lawyer for the Bay State Building Condominium Association, about the out of service elevator. The association represents the Illinois investor who owns 37 apartments on Bay State's bottom three floors and the 28 mostly absentee landlords own 40 condominium units on the upper four floors.

Assistant City Attorney Brian Corrigan acknowledged the completed work but was skeptical that the elevator would be fixed anytime soon and urged Dalton to appoint a receiver to do the work. He said the owners are trying to do patchwork repairs on an aging elevator that should be replaced.

“They're trying to put modern components into a Model T elevator system,” Corrigan told Dalton. “They're putting Band-Aids on issues that require major surgery.... If it can't be done by Bay State, I'd like to see a receiver do it.”

Dalton set aside the request and instead set a hearing for Sept. 5 after Bay State's lawyers assured her that the elevator would be repaired by Aug. 30 — “barring unforeseen issues” like the ones that so far have delayed the repairs, Barnett cautioned. 

“We're frustrated as well,” Barnett told Dalton. “We're doing everything possible on our end to facilitate this work. Some things are out of our control.”

Barnett blamed the delay in getting the second elevator back in service on Atlantic Elevator Service of Avon, the contractor the owners hired on April 19 to repair both elevators.

She said work first stalled when Atlantic was unable to bypass the proprietary codes the manufacturer installed on the elevator's control boards, making it impossible to program the elevator. The boards have been shipped to a California firm that can unlock the codes, Barnett said.

Another delay occurred when the only Atlantic technician “who was solely qualified” to do some of the work became unavailable, Barnett said.

Further delays occurred when Atlantic “was called away from (Bay State) to address an emergency situation at another property,” according to Barnett. 

She said Bay State may “revisit” its contract with Atlantic.

Atlantic replaced Halley Elevator Co. at Bay State in February, so a new elevator contractor would be the building's third in six months.

Jason Carter, a lawyer representing Haven Real Estate Group of Clarendon Hills, Illinois, which owns the units on the second, third and fourth floors and the mostly empty retail space on the ground floor, urged Judge Dalton to take no action involving the elevators at least until July 23, when the state is scheduled to inspect the elevator that is back in service. Haven is owned by Albert Adriani. 

“If the state says the elevator can't run and it has to be modernized, then we'll have that discussion” about whether the elevator should be replaced, Carter said.

“If the state says that, it would be a short discussion,” Dalton responded.

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