Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trenton News update: French Towers saga day 5

Theodore Wright and his MJ collection

TRENTON -- If it were just a matter of getting the parts at the elevator version of Pep Boys, Herb Brown would have done it by now. But nobody is more powerful than lightning and can snap his fingers to turn fried circuit boards into gold overnight.

"We're looking for parts from suppliers" all over the East Coast, the executive director of the Trenton Housing Authority said, "and we will have them flown in."

So it's Day 5 of the elevator saga at French Towers at 630 West State Street. The two elevators in the 10-story residential building for seniors and disabled folks have been out of order since Friday night's lightning storm. The bolts zapped the motherboards, the sensors and other key components that make the elevators run. "Completely fried," Brown said. The 1970s-era elevators -- one of them is a Standard, the other Cummings -- have passed inspections every year, Brown said Wednesday morning on the 5th-floor landing. He called the meltdown of circuitry "a cascade failure" in which parts died one after another, like Dominos falling. He found sensors in Long Island and other parts in Staten Island -- and now it's a matter of working around the clock to "rekey" all of the moving parts to "these elevator specifications."

Brown said the "best-case scenario" for the motherboards and sensors to arrive for installation is Thursday. He repeated Kenny King, director of the French Towers, by saying the THA is paying top-dollar to the repair company to get the circuitry rekeyed and delivered as fast as possible.

In the meantime, a dozen or so kids in the B.O.Y.D. program showed up Wednesday morning to volunteer their time, energy and spunk. Three of the students were Taz McKnight (17), Wykia Cooper (13) and Kalli Johnson (12). They spent about 45 minutes with A Better Way mentor Alfred Harris delivering water and other necessities to folks on the higher floors. They brightened the spirits of a hunched 81-year-old by the name of Alonzo Hightower, who has a few ailments, including "old age." He felt a little more spry after Taz delivered water. "They are very good," he said of the B.O.Y.D. kids. "We admire them 100 percent. This is going to mold their character for years to come."

The highlight of the morning, at least for Taz, was Theodore Wright's room on the 6th floor. Inside the tight quarters of a 43-year-old man who swam and played baseball at Trenton High, but who these days has a tough time walking, is his shrine to many of the greatest athletes in American history: Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Ice Man Gervin, LeBron James ... but the sweetest display on one of the walls is the row of Michael Jordan 23 jerseys, from his high school days to his UNC days to his Bulls days to his days wearing No. 9 on the Dream Team. There were jerseys and signed posters and plaques and memorabilia galore of sporting greats. Taz's eyes bugged out a bit. And his cheeks got somewhat red when Theodore told him that Jordan went to North Carolina and made the winning jumper to give the Tar Heels the national title over Georgetown. Taz said he should have known that because he was born in North Carolina

Up on the 7th floor, a 73-year-old fella by the name of Albert Hicks said he's so happy that Taz and Wykia and Kallie and the dozens of other kids are volunteering at the French Towers amid the crisis. "They're doing something constructive," he said after Taz had given him a few bottles of water. "That shit in the street is nothing for nothing. There are only 3 ways in the street: the graveyard, the hospital or jail."

The most endearing part of the morning took place after Wykia and Kallie made a delivery to Miss Agnes Novak in 704. About 15 minutes earlier the girls delivered to Miss Novak then asked if she needed anything at the store. Orange juice, she told them. She gave the girls two dollar bills. They went back downstairs and then to the corner store. They raced back up the stairwell with a reporter. Wykia tripped on the last step before the 3rd-floor landing then realized the video camera was on. Her cheeks turned red. Wykia and Kallie made it back to 704 and knocked on the door, and Miss Novak answered and smiled when they gave her the bottle of OJ and the other dollar because the juice cost 99 cents.

"It was worth it, though," Wykia said on the walk down the stairwell. "Her smile was so cute."