Amusement ride inspection paperwork poses concerns, Stringer says

Amusement parks and exciting rides are part of a New York City summer.

And soon, these colorful, scream-inducing attractions will attract scores of thrill-seekers.

But the city’s program to inspect rides has been marred by sloppy record-keeping, according to an audit of permanent and portable attractions released Thursday by city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Auditors could not verify 86% of the random inspections in the sample of permanent rides examined.

As part of the audit, Stringer’s staff reviewed records from nine locations with permanent rides across the city between January 2016 and July 2018, specifically targeting 1,857 spot checks, which the city Department of Buildings’ Elevator Unit conducts to verify the equipment is being properly operated.

The comptroller’s team also reviewed checklists from 242 inspections of permanent attractions’ mechanical integrity. 

The review looked at the oversight of rides in Coney Island’s Luna Park and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park as well as Victorian Gardens in Central Park and other smaller parks around the city.

Despite a requirement that every device receive at least one spot check while it is operating, records did not exist for 31% of permanent attractions running in 2016, 19% of those active in 2017 and 13% of those in use in 2018, according to the audit. 

The poor record-keeping could lead to unnecessary reviews or missed inspections of the roughly 125 currently licensed amusement devices in the city, auditors said.

“Part of what makes New York City such a great place to raise a family is that our communities have the space and opportunity to come together in celebration. That’s why we can’t take chances with inspections or the safety of New Yorkers,” Stringer said in a statement. “The lack of oversight and management at the Department of Buildings has put hundreds of inspections in question and may have led to a waste of taxpayer money.”

“Our audit is pushing the Department of Buildings to make fundamental changes in how it ensures inspections are completed and tracked, and that means more fun and peace of mind for New Yorkers,” he said.

Officials at the Building’s Department acknowledged the agency needs a better way to document and track inspection records. But they said the paperwork problems did not pose any safety concerns. 

“In the last three years, there were millions of patrons at the city’s amusement parks and only one minor injury due to a malfunctioning ride,” Andrew Rudansky, a spokesperson for the Buildings Department, said in a statement. “In that case, a patron’s clothing snagged on a bolt, causing the patron to bruise her arm. All the city’s amusement rides are inspected as required — and they will all receive their annual inspections by this Sunday.”

Rudansky said the agency is now using a system to log inspections and spot checks almost immediately. Those results will be available to the public.

City Councilman Mark Treyger, whose district includes Coney Island, praised the Buildings Department for making changes, but said amusement operators should have been part of the process.

“It is unfortunate that their voices were not a part of this conversation until now, and inexcusable that poor record-keeping procedures could cast a pall on the exemplary safety record of these family-run businesses,” Treyger said in a statement. “They have regularly engaged with me and many city agencies on proactive safety plans, and they are dismayed by the news of these administrative failures just a few days before the season’s opening.”

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