I was selling a townhouse on the Upper East Side with an old-fashioned elevator with a birdcage door. The townhouse has been refurbished by the developers. The developer said, “The elevator is new and working perfectly, but don’t use it. They are working on it.”
There was always a sense of security about the elevator, which my partner Tom Postilio and I told our clients.
The top broker brought his lovely client from London. We took them home, and the show seemed to be very successful. They didn’t have any questions. But when I was on the top floor, I was told, “I never bought a house without taking the elevator.”
I said, “Well, ok, let’s see if we can do that.” When I pressed the call button, it turned on and I heard a quiet roar of the motor. I opened the door. This was the first time I actually saw the inside of the elevator. It was beautifully siding and was about the size of a very small phone booth. I grabbed the door for the client and asked their broker if he wanted to join us. He said, “The four of us are a little tight. See you downstairs.”
When I pressed the button on the first floor, the elevator went down about 6 inches and stopped. “OK, let’s try again.” I pressed the button again. Then I’m pushing anything that lights up. Her wife said, “This is not interesting. Let’s move.” She could feel her anxiety. They weren’t the nervous type — they were beautifully dressed, calm, cool, gathered and very sophisticated buyers. However, the fear of being trapped was very clear.
I picked up the elevator phone, and it was dead. I called my partner and explained the situation very calmly. I told the buyer, “This should be fine. You’ll be out of here in 3 minutes.” Meanwhile, my partner was calling the developer, an English woman in this bossy boot, and she wasn’t picking up. He started calling her Robocall. When she finally picked up her phone, she said, “Well, call the elevator company.”
The elevator company said they would come — in about 3 hours.
My husband was trying to maintain a calm attitude such as “OK, don’t panic.” Their broker was behind the elevator door, and he could hear but not see his voice. “Do you want to order pizza? I think you can slide it under the door.”
My wife just shut down. She withdrew as if she had experienced her out-of-body experience. She could sit on the floor in the commercial elevator, but she stood all the time because there was no room here. Meanwhile, I quietly sent a text message to Tom, “Call the fire department.” And he was like, “They are on their way.” And “they are climbing the stairs!”
I heard a fuss outside. The door opens and I never forget the scene. What seems to come from the FDNY calendar shoot is that all these firefighters were lined up.
Needless to say, these people didn’t make an offer.
Associate broker, Triplemint, New York City
My client was a woman who moved from New Jersey to the city. I was showing her an apartment on the 4th floor of her skyscraper. She came with her friend. They seemed to like the apartment and then we were all chatting. I stepped into the elevator, pushed a button and went down to the lobby, but the elevator went up. So I said, “OK, just press” lobby “again and it will go down.” But it wasn’t. It went up steadily.
I don’t know if the elevator got stuck first, or if the woman was surprised to start pressing all the buttons, including the emergency button, and then got stuck. However, the elevator stopped between the floors. One of the women was very worried. She began to take off her jacket and scarf. Then another woman, who was a little quieter, started to be surprised by hitting the buttons on all the elevators.
“Stop pressing all the elevator buttons and call the front desk for help,” I said. If you see one person panicking, speak in a calm voice and explain how to get well. But with two of them, it was much more difficult. One of the women was mostly hyperventilated.
Finally, some building employees came to help us — a few guys — and they were talking to us through the door. The women were so worried that they began yelling at the men and told them to do whatever it took to get them out. I remember saying, “We must be kind to these men, they are saving us!”
It didn’t take long, and it took less than 10 minutes to get out. They were very relieved. The client said, “Did I say I don’t like the upper floors?”
— —Edit from interview
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