Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Where's the Fire Marshall When You Need Him?

One of the common gripes from all morning attendees at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center is the absolutely ludicrous crowding that occurs every day at the elevator bank. The morons who designed the CJC have two sets of elevators.

On the west side of the building, there are four elevators that run all the way up to the 10th floor. A fifth elevator runs from the basement all the way to 20, but good luck catching it. Half the time, it has been commandeered by bailiffs trying to get a jury panel up to a courtroom.

On the east side of the building, there are six elevators that will take you from the first floor up to the 10th floor through the 20th floor. On any given weekday, one of these elevators will be out of commission, as more and more people jam their way past the metal detectors in the lobby into the elevator bank.

There are no escalators and there is no public access to stairways.

All rules of civility are thrown out the window as it quickly becomes every man and woman for themselves. Elbows are thrown and insults are hurled. Tensions flare in an already tense building, and the whole damn situation created every morning just isn't a safe one.

I took this picture this morning just to give you some idea of what it looks like, but it doesn't really even begin to do the chaos justice. Trust me, when you are longing for the spacious and roomy atmosphere of a New York subway, you are really in cramped quarters.



Oh, and don't forget that when you actually do get on an elevator, you get to deal with these folks.

A couple of years ago, the Fire Marshall came out and inspected the courtrooms and hallways and declared there could be no furniture in the seldom-used hallways behind the courtrooms. Apparently, furniture created a fire hazard. Keep in mind, these areas that they addressed aren't accessible to the general public and are never congested. But, the good folks with the Fire Marshall decided any type of furniture in the hallway, like, say, a chair, could be a threat to human life in the event of a fire.

But somehow they manage to overlook the elevator situation that happens every day?!

I'm really not trying to stir up trouble here (this time), but something really needs to be done about this situation.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Murray, perhaps an architect could be consulted to design outside elevators (like the ones that slide up and down the sides of some big city hotels.....ever see the movie Towering Inferno? The elevators could be extra deep, like some freight elevators, to move the masses of defendants and stupid elevator people to their courtooms to await their convictions and ultimate sentencing.
-
Or, you could enact a rule that says, "No one with tattoos on their necks, foreheads or sagging cleavage is allowed to ride". That would rid you of 95% of the riders. Ha ha!

Anonymous said...

You folks need to catch a ride on the staff elevator, no change that, the judges elevator.
It's good to be the king.....

Anonymous said...

Almost every single day that I'm there, someone will ask the location of the stairs.

They want to just take the stairs.

That sounds like a simple and obvious solution, doesn't it?

One of these days my mean streak will win and I'm going to tell someone where the stairs are just so they can walk up a dozen floors and say hello to a set of locked doors.

Anonymous said...

The designers of the elevators are presumably the same designers who placed the CJC directly in front of a body of water and also at the lowest point of downtown without protecting the building from flooding. Remember Allison in 2001? The CJC had only been in operation for one year and it was so damaged from the water runoff that it was put out of commission for one whole year. Why? Not only because of all of the flooding but also because of the fact that all the generators and electrical wiring was in the basement of the CJC ... which flooded. I'm thinking there should have been a lawsuit back them on behalf of the county. Or maybe that's what you get when you take the lowest bid on a multi-million project: you get subpar results!

Anonymous said...

I've been on the elevator several times when it would not lift off the ground because of to many people on it.

The elevators at the Civil Court building are great.

Anonymous said...

My favorite thing in riding the courthouse elevators is picking out the people who are immune from execution. "Hmmmm, lets see . . . you, and you, and you . . ."

The Observer said...

The CJC is the only public building I've ever been in that was designed with a bottleneck between the front doors and the elevators. Most often, public buildings are built with large milling areas and spacious elevator bank areas. Moreover, the CJC original design called for escalators - don't know what happened to that. It also called for the PTSA to be located on the first floor - it's on 12. And, at one time, the plan called for twin towers, each somewhat shorter than 20 stories with the DA's office on one area away from the courtrooms.

Anonymous said...

I have only been stuck on one of those elevators once, which I consider a miracle given their overcrowding.

I agree that there is no way the elevators or elevator banks could meet the fire code if anyone actually checked. I often think about this while I cuddle with a gang member and a pregnant teenager on my way up.

Anonymous said...

Given the current budgetary climate, there will be no additional elevators built anytime soon. What can be done NOW to alleviate the problem?

To start with, get the constables--who appear to be glued to those lecterns--to regulate access to the elevators. There appears to be the misconception that there is a "line" for both sides. There is not. There is just a free for all. This creates a problem when county employees, etc., who know there is no line try to cross over on one to get to the upper floors. I have witnessed too many unnecessary altercations arising out of that misunderstanding.

A less feasible alternative is to allow those county employees who work in the courts limited access to the sacred judges' elevators in the morning from say 7:30 - 8:30. That would eliminate the cart and box brigade taking up extra space on the public elevators. Plus it would allow those judges who don't want to share an elevator with lessers a window to get to court in judicial solitude.

Anonymous said...

Given the current budgetary climate, there will be no additional elevators built anytime soon. What can be done NOW to alleviate the problem?

To start with, get the constables--who appear to be glued to those lecterns--to regulate access to the elevators. There appears to be the misconception that there is a "line" for both sides. There is not. There is just a free for all. This creates a problem when county employees, etc., who know there is no line try to cross over on one to get to the upper floors. I have witnessed too many unnecessary altercations arising out of that misunderstanding.

A less feasible alternative is to allow those county employees who work in the courts limited access to the sacred judges' elevators in the morning from say 7:30 - 8:30. That would eliminate the cart and box brigade taking up extra space on the public elevators. Plus it would allow those judges who don't want to share an elevator with lessers a window to get to court in judicial solitude.

Anonymous said...

Given the current budgetary climate, there will be no additional elevators built anytime soon. What can be done NOW to alleviate the problem?

To start with, get the constables--who appear to be glued to those lecterns--to regulate access to the elevators. There appears to be the misconception that there is a "line" for both sides. There is not. There is just a free for all. This creates a problem when county employees, etc., who know there is no line try to cross over on one to get to the upper floors. I have witnessed too many unnecessary altercations arising out of that misunderstanding.

A less feasible alternative is to allow those county employees who work in the courts limited access to the sacred judges' elevators in the morning from say 7:30 - 8:30. That would eliminate the cart and box brigade taking up extra space on the public elevators. Plus it would allow those judges who don't want to share an elevator with lessers a window to get to court in judicial solitude.

Anonymous said...

We just need these guys as elevator attendants and problem solved:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9nnXw_6WQs

Tenderfoot said...

The times we got called there we had an informal game of spot the defendant!

Rorschach said...

You could always anonymously drop a dime to the fire marshall about the situation and try to get one out to ticket/fine them.
The life you save may be your own.