Ethan Wolin, Contributing Photographer

The Board of Alders revamped New Haven’s rules for broken elevators and barber shops on Thursday evening.

On Nov. 9, in their first full board meeting since voters renewed Democrats’ total hold on the body, the alders unanimously passed measures to clarify the handling of elevator failures and revise health standards for businesses such as hair salons and tattoo shops.

The updated elevator regulations require that building owners repair broken elevators within 48 hours or face a penalty of $250 per day in most cases. It also gives the Livable City Initiative, the agency that enforces the city’s housing code, responsibility for fielding complaints about elevator stoppages.

“Failed elevator service is not just an inconvenience,” Ward 8 Alder Ellen Cupo told her colleagues before the vote. “It prevents residents with disabilities from performing essential daily life activities.”

Cupo, who represents Wooster Square and chairs the committee that oversaw the measure, told the News that she recalled hearing from a wheelchair-bound constituent who could not leave her apartment without calling the fire department and had to be carried downstairs because the elevator was out of service.

The effort to toughen elevator regulations has been years in the making. Legislation passed by the board in 2016 to address the problem of broken elevators suffered from spotty enforcement by the Commission on Equal Opportunity, or CEO, according to Ward 15 Alder Ernie Santiago and Sally Esposito, a member of the separate Commission on Disabilities who has championed the stronger elevator ordinance.

“I don’t think CEO was even very involved in the conversations” about handling elevator failures, Esposito said. “It just got plunked there, I think, because they needed a place to put it.”

Asked about the delay in adjusting the enforcement mechanism, Ward 27 Alder Richard Furlow, the Democratic majority leader, said alders took time to determine the “most economical” method, one that would not waste firefighters’ time with easily fixable problems.

The second ordinance amendment to receive a vote on Thursday concerned oversight of barbers, hair salons, body piercing shops, massage parlors, nail salons and tattoo shops — about 200 New Haven businesses in total, per the city health director’s estimate.

The changes bring New Haven into compliance with Connecticut statutes that require annual inspections and uniform health standards, Cupo explained in an interview. Under the new municipal law, shops will pay a $150 fee for the annual inspection.

At Phil’s Hair and Spa on Audubon Street, co-owner Divie Geli said he had not heard about the update to the regulations, but he speculated that the new standards might target unlicensed barbers in neighborhoods outside downtown.

City inspectors have already typically visited his locations at least once a year to check the stylists’ licenses, equipment and compliance with health requirements like disinfecting combs, Geli said.

The revised regulations on hair salons and elevators passed during the first full Board of Alders meeting since last Tuesday’s general elections, in which Democratic candidates won the alder races across all of New Haven’s 30 wards.

To open the meeting, Ward 12 Alder Gerald Antunes paid tribute to Renee Haywood, the Ward 11 alder who died last month. “She served with honor and dedication,” Antunes said, receiving a standing ovation at the end of his speech.

Following unanimous votes on a slew of measures, the alders turned to personal announcements, which ranged from shout-outs for local youth sports teams to sentimental words from Ward 19 Alder Kimberly Edwards.

“I love all of you. We’re a great li’l family,” Edwards said, after thanking her colleagues for their support amid “changes” in her actual family. “It’s like having siblings and extended cousins and stuff. So that says a lot.”

Election Day made lame ducks of five alders — four who are stepping down and one, Ward 15’s Santiago, who lost a Democratic primary election in September. None was defeated at the polls last week.

Correction, Nov. 13: A previous version of this article misstated the name of the Commission on Disabilities member who has advocated for the stronger elevator regulations. She is Sally Esposito, not Laura Esposito.

ETHAN WOLIN
Ethan Wolin covers City Hall and local politics. He is a first year in Silliman College from Washington, D.C.