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Elevator Man Headed for Extinction

Nov. 29, 1963 - Though he helped lift New York to its greatest height, the elevator man is now being replaced by the electronic button and the door that is deaf to the cry: “Hold it, please.” The number of elevator men has dropped in New York from 35,000 in 1950 to 10,000 today, according to Thomas Shortman, president of the Building Service Employees International Union. Today he estimated that within a decade the elevator man “will be a thing of the past” in New York City. Already automation has introduced new emotions to the elevator ride, a new sense of fear to some riders. There are young women, for instance, who refuse to board empty elevator cars. They will wait until a car is occupied by perhaps a half-dozen persons before getting into it, feeling safer in a crowd. Though there are no police figures indicating an increase in crime since automatic elevators became popular, some newer buildings have television cameras in their passenger elevators. The screens are monitored in the lobby by the doorman. “I saw a man in the elevator the other day I didn’t recognize, so I went after him and threw him out,” said the doorman at 166 East 61st St. “He says, ‘I thought nobody saw me,’ and I said, ‘Well, somebody did see you — now take off.” The Empire State Building, which employs 100 elevator men to run its 74 elevators, will begin installing automatic elevators next month. By the end of 1965, it will have 58 automatics in operation at a cost of $2 million. But within five years, the Empire’s management estimates it will have made up the expense because it will have dismissed 65 elevator operators.


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