McMahon’s Main Attraction: The Tower of Terror

Ride Operators Claim They Are Safe, But Students Feel Elevators Could Use Seatbelts and Overhead Restraints


Published: March 12, 2009

What’s on the 20th floor of McMahon Hall?  Countless Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) undergrads have found out how Fordham Law students live against their wills, thanks to the building’s notoriously dysfunctional elevators.  Almost every McMahon resident interviewed agreed that being brought up to the 20th floor without pressing the button is a common occurrence.

On one occasion, a trip to the 20th floor cost Evan O’Donovan, FCLC ’11, his lunch.

“I was hoping to make the 11 o’clock Ram Van, then eat at the Rose Hill cafeteria. I got on the elevator on the eighth floor and pressed floor one.  Then, the elevator started rocketing up to the 20th floor. This had happened to me plenty of times before, so I wasn’t alarmed. Long story short, the elevator stopped on floors 19, 18, 17 and 16, at which point I pretty much resigned any hopes of making my van and just rode it back to my floor, eight. It took about a week,” O’Donovan said.

The constant malfunctioning of McMahon’s elevators has caused some pretty wild rumors to spread, like one story about a student who broke his leg after the elevator “fell” five floors. According to facilities manager Leslie Timoney, the rumor is false. However, some students have reported experiencing “free falling,” the rapid dropping between floors, while riding the elevator.

Adam Azulay, FCLC ’10, shared one particularly chilling story of a late night elevator ride.

“I went down from my 13th floor apartment once at like four in the morning to pick up some Flame delivery, and the doors closed; it wouldn’t go down, at which point I reached to press the button again, and it made a free fall to the third floor, when it abruptly stopped and opened up. I quickly bolted out and took the stairs for about a week!” Azulay said.

Mia Dixon, FCLC ’10, also experienced free-falling after first being trapped in the elevator.

“I was stuck in one for about eight minutes alone, and the emergency button wasn’t doing anything. I was calling people and trying to make them come save me; but finally, the doors opened between floors, and it started free falling—with the doors open! I thought I was a goner for sure,” Dixon said.

A few FCLC students said that they have been trapped for several minutes while riding the elevators. Sarah Mastrangelo, FCLC ’12, was rushing to make a show with some friends when she had such an experience.

“I was with a group of people taking the elevator down, and we got stuck for a good minute or two in between the second and first floors. A couple of the people I was with are claustrophobic and were freaking out. We pressed the alarm or emergency button a bunch of times, and after a good 30 seconds, they kind of blurted some noise out on the speaker. When we got out a minute or two later, the guard asked us how long we had been stuck in there. When I think about it, it wasn’t long at all, but when you’re stuck in the elevator and you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, it feels like a really long time,” Mastrangelo said.

So what is being done to correct these problems? Timoney revealed very little about the frequent malfunctions of the McMahon Hall elevators—stating that they undergo “daily routine maintenance,” adding that “an elevator has never ‘fallen’ in my 16 years here.” However reluctant Timoney was to share her stories about elevator “entrapments” and other elevator rides gone wrong, she assures FCLC residents that the elevators are safe.

“Every problem is thoroughly investigated within 24 hours of when it’s reported. If an elevator is not operating, it is called in for immediate service,” Timoney said. “When an elevator goes up to the 20th floor, it resets itself, and therefore the issue is more difficult to solve. We have an outside consultant who also conducts safety checks on the elevators. The McMahon elevators have recently passed their five-year tests mandated by the city.”

So although FCLC residents run the risk of “free falling,” being trapped or taking an impromptu trip to the 20th floor, apparently there is no real reason to be afraid to ride McMahon’s elevators.  Hop on board, and by all means, enjoy your ride on Fordham’s own “Tower of Terror.” It’s completely safe.