Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Commission on Human Rights of NYC orders Co-op City to pay over $50,000 in fines for inaccessible building entrance

From PR Newswire:

NEW YORK -- The Commission on Human Rights of the City of New York has ordered Co-op City to pay over $50,000 in fines to the city, as well as damages and compensation to a resident with disabilities who uses a motorized wheelchair, for failing to provide an accessible front entrance in one of its buildings.

United Spinal Association was a key representative in 67-year-old John Rose's long battle with Co-op City––a Bronx, NY complex of over 30 high-rise buildings–– to provide reasonable accommodation as required by the city's nondiscrimination law.

"United Spinal Association commends John Rose for his dogged determination and helping set a precedent that will benefit New Yorkers for generations to come," says James Weisman, United Spinal Association senior vice president and general counsel.

Mr. Rose, a former city worker with cerebral palsy who has limited use of his arms and uses a motorized wheelchair, requested in 2008 that Co-op City install an accessible automatic door opener at the main entrance of his building, where he has resided for 29 years. An architect from United Spinal Association visited the site and determined the main entrance could be made accessible for slightly over $4,000.

After his requests went unanswered for 2 1/2 years, and during the course of the litigation, Co-op City eventually made a side entrance accessible. Rose argued that being forced to use a less safe, seldom used side door made him feel like a "second class citizen," and refused to use it.

With representation from United Spinal Association, Rose proceeded to file a complaint with the commission. During his testimony, Rose detailed several instances of being caught in the elements, where he had to wait up to 45 minutes for someone either entering or exiting the building to assist him.

Further, on days when the building's security guard was not on duty, Rose was forced to try to get home before 7 p.m., since there are usually more people around to assist him with entering the building. He also detailed damage to his motorized scooter caused by the need to use it to push the building's entrance doors open.

The commission has ordered Co-op City to make the front entrance accessible by installing automatic door openers and pay Rose for his pain and suffering, and for the damage to his scooter.

Moreover, a significant footnote in the decision states that it is likely that every entrance and exit to a building must be made accessible, assuming it is architecturally and financial feasible.