The man, identified as Samuel Charles Waisbren, was a resident of the building at 344 Third Avenue in the Kips Bay neighborhood of New York City, police said.
When the doors began to close, the elevator unexpectedly malfunctioned and dropped to the basement. Waisbren became trapped between the elevator and the shaft wall, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Firefighters had to rescue three other people who were trapped inside the elevator and witnessed the horror.
Waisbren's heartbroken father, Charles Waisbren, told WABC in a phone interview that the elevators were "always broken." The family lives in Fox Point, Wisconsin, but both of Waisbren's sons moved to New York.
"He is not going to be able to be a father, have a family and live the life we all hoped for him," he said.
One resident of the building, which is called Manhattan Promenade, told WABC on Thursday that riding the elevator was scary and that it reminded her of a Halloween ride.
"They always jump between floors," the resident told WABC. "It's really bad."
Charles Waisbren told Milwaukee, Wisconsin, ABC affiliate WISN that his son had been in New York for about five years.
"We sent him out there to find fame and fortune, which he did," his father said. "He loved New York -- it's exciting, lot of people, he made a lot of friends. He did well, he was living in a fancy New York building. The elevator had a myriad of problems for many, many years. Obviously it's a horrible tragedy."
Anand Sanwal, the CEO and co-founder of CB Insights, where Waisbren worked, said in a statement, "Sam was a great friend to many at CB Insights, and his wit, humor and intellect will be missed. We are shocked and stunned by his loss and will miss him dearly. Our thoughts are with his family."
In May, the city's Department of Buildings fined Manhattan Promenade $1,280 because it had found that a door-zone restrictor in one of the 22-story building's elevators had been tampered with and "rendered inoperative." WABC said the building had two elevators. The elevator where Waisbren was killed was not the one that had been fined, investigators said. In July, a work permit had been issued to fix the wiring in both elevators.
"DOB is investigating this incident aggressively and will take all appropriate enforcement actions. Elevators are the safest form of travel in New York due to the city’s stringent inspection and safety requirements. We’re determined to find out what went wrong at this building and seek ways to prevent incidents like this in the future," it said in a statement.
The incident was captured by the apartment building's surveillance system and the police were reviewing that footage.