Opinion: Princeton Community Housing is keeping its senior residents safe

We are responding to a Letter to the Editor recently submitted by Brenda Considine (Princeton Community Housing needs to keep seniors safe, Princeton Packet, Feb. 12) regarding her concerns about our elevator replacement project at Elm Court.

We appreciate Ms. Considine’s concern for her mother. The health and safety of her mother and the other residents of Harriet Bryan House and Elm Court are indeed our foremost objectives.

We would like to provide a few pieces of information to assure the community that we do indeed take resident safety and open communication very seriously.

For context, the elevator that we are replacing at Elm Court is original to the building. It is not a repair or an upgrade – it is a replacement. The elevator model is obsolete, and most repair parts are no longer available. Replacement is the only option. It has been inspected by professionals, and while not considered a danger, the possibility of the elevator ceasing to function unexpectedly is a real possibility. Such a sudden loss of function would cause a much lengthier period of down time versus the current, planned replacement. We have been advised that the safest course of action would be to replace the elevator as soon as possible.

It is true that the replacement of the elevator may necessitate some second floor Elm Court residents to walk to the connected Harriet Bryan House building (via a new indoor hallway connection) to use one of the two elevators there. However, we do not believe that individuals passing by one another in the hallway, whether there is a replacement project or not, represents a threat to health or safety. Indeed, CDC guidelines for contact tracing suggest that someone needs to be within 6 feet of a person with the virus for 15 minutes to be at-risk. The hallways themselves are well ventilated and residents are required to wear masks in the common areas of the facility, including hallways. Our guidelines already require that only one person be in the elevator at a time, unless occupants are from the same household, and that social distancing be used in the infrequent instance where there could be a wait for the elevator.

Elevator utilization is relatively low right now. As Ms. Considine notes, most of our residents are sheltering in place and receiving services at home during the pandemic. This means that the risk of co-mingling around the operating elevator is also relatively low. In order to further reduce the risk of any possible transmission, we have planned to increase the surface disinfection rates inside and around the area of the elevators during the term of the replacement project. In addition, we have arranged for all residents of Elm Court and Harriet Bryan House to have the opportunity to receive their first Covid-19 vaccination prior to the commencement of the elevator replacement. The second dose will be available for all residents prior to the completion of the project.

The mission of Princeton Community Housing has been and always will be to provide safe housing for its residents. Much thought and planning has gone into this project, including consulting with outside experts. We believe this project will be done in a way that both enhances the safety of our facility and protects our residents.

Edward Truscelli

Princeton Community Housing