DOB Elevator Report reveals the ups and downs of NYC’s 84,000+ elevator parts and where to find them

April 13, 2018

The DOB’s interactive maps show where all the elevators are, above in 3D

Again taking a look at New York City one tiny, moving part at a time: New York City has the world’s oldest population of elevators, and more elevator devices–over 84,000–than any other city in North America. The NYC Department of Buildings Elevator Report 2017 brings us an overview of the city’s elevator stock, including interactive maps that show which neighborhoods have the most elevators, elevator history, and, trust us, much more. That big number includes dumbwaiters, escalators, freight elevators, passenger elevators, private elevators, permanent amusement rides, personnel hoists (used for construction), sidewalk elevators and wheelchair lifts.

elevator map, DOB, elevator report, maps

The first elevators were developed over 160 years ago to address New York City’s unique tendency to go vertical with its architecture. With building heights heading skyward, moving occupants from floor to floor became a challenge. In the 1830s, steam-powered lifts were used for freight, but they weren’t considered safe enough for precious human cargo.

There really is an Otis behind those elevator signs. In 1852, Elisha Otis introduced a safety device to shore up elevator cabs in the event of mechanical failure; his demonstration wowed spectators at the 1854 Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations at the Crystal Palace Building (today’s Bryant Park). On March 23, 1857 Eder V. Haugwout installed the first passenger elevator–courtesy of Otis Elevator Company, of course–in his department store at 490 Broadway. The contraption traveled at a speed of about 40 feet per minute (compared to the 1,700-foot-per-minute speed of today’s fastest elevators.)

elevator map, DOB, elevator report, maps
Escalators deserve some attention, too.

DOB’s Elevator Unit supports the operational safety and lawful use of all of those elevator devices throughout the five boroughs. So who better to provide enlightening statistics and interactive maps of the city’s everyday vertical journeys.

  • The Elevator Unit supports over 84,000 elevator devices in the city.
  • Of that number, there are 63,000 passenger elevators, a number which surpasses the cities of Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., Miami combined.
  • In New York City, there is one active passenger elevator for every 139 users.
  • The average rise for a passenger elevator in New York City is about 40 feet.
  • According to research by National Elevator Industry, Inc., in America, a typical elevator passenger makes about four elevator trips per day, over 250 days per year (Residential / Commercial building types).
  • Passenger elevators in the New York City make over 35 million passenger trips per day (139 passengers per device x 4 trips per passenger x 63,000 passenger elevators).
  • Safety fact: In 2017 the Department of buildings issued 4,816 violations for elevator-related complaints. Fewer than 7% of buildings with elevators had a violation issued in 2017. But if you’re concerned, the report also links to information about elevator-related violations and how to notify the DOB of elevator issues.

Sources: Department of Buildings National Elevator Industry Inc., Department of City Planning.

elevator map, DOB, elevator report, maps

elevator map, DOB, elevator report, maps
Two elevators at 552 7th Avenue, present and accounted for. Image: Google Maps

elevator map, DOB, elevator report, mapsWhat about dumbwaiters?

elevator map, DOB, elevator report, maps
The dumbwaiter highlighted above is at the Wingate by Wyndham hotel in Midtown, which makes sense, since they’re used for laundry. Image: Google Maps.

Can’t get enough info on the city’s elevators? Check out the report here.


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