Lawsuit targets NYC sidewalks

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Statue of Liberty and New York City Skyline

New York

New York City is violating federal and city disability laws by failing to evaluate and maintain its sidewalks south of 14th Street in Manhattan, according to a recent class-action lawsuit filed in federal district court.

“The area below 14th street is home to centers for civic participation like City Hall and the Courts. It is the home of Wall Street, the 9/11 memorial, and the departure point for visiting the Statue of Liberty,” Disability Rights Advocates said in a news release. “It is a national hub of business and commerce. Without access to the streetscape here, persons with disabilities are excluded from critical governmental services and a multitude of basic New York City experiences.”

The lawsuit, filed by Disability Rights Advocates, is on behalf of the Center for the Independence of the Disabled in New York, which conducted a survey in June of 1066 curbs in lower Manhattan.

The survey found that more than 75 percent of these curbs posed safety hazards to people with mobility and visual disabilities. Specifically, 22 percent of the ramps lacked any curb cuts, while 28 percent of them had dangerously steep slopes.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, cities are required to conduct a comprehensive self evaluation of sidewalks, as well as a transition plan, described in the lawsuit as “a schedule for providing curb ramps and or other sloped areas where pedestrian walks cross curbs.”

The lawsuit argues that NYC has failed to both conduct a self evaluation in the area, despite being required to since 1992, and create a transition plan.

“When these standards are not followed consistently and accurately, persons with disabilities are put at risk of entering traffic involuntarily, falling, or being unable to cross from one pedestrian sidewalk to another,” states the lawsuit, which was filed July 29. “Without code-compliant curb ramps individuals who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices cannot navigate safely between sidewalks and pedestrian crosswalks.”

In addition to the ADA, the lawsuit accuses the state of violating Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the New York City Human Rights Law.

The City of New York and the City Department of Transportation are named as defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.