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Queens Chronicle

Library puts disabled on a shelf, suit says

Much of new $41.5M Hunters Point branch is alleged to be inaccessible

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Posted: Thursday, December 5, 2019 10:30 am

A new chapter of controversy has started for the Queens Borough Public Library and its new Hunters Point branch, after a Queens woman and an advocacy group alleged the building makes it impossible for some individuals to access certain parts of the structure.

In a federal lawsuit filed against the QBPL, its trustees and the city, the Center for Independence of the Disabled-New York alleges the Hunters Point Library was “designed and built with a total disregard for adults and children with mobility disabilities and in flagrant contempt of the legal requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

The lead plaintiff is Tanya Jackson, a Long Island City resident who, according to the lawsuit, is a frequent library user who is hesitant to return to the Hunters Point building because she could not access all of its features due to her dependence on a walker. For example, the lawsuit states, the rooftop terrace is inaccessible to those who use wheelchairs, walkers or scooters.

Additionally, the fifth-floor seating area is located up a steep ramp, which Jackson had difficulty navigating due to her walker.

“It is shocking to me that a brand-new public library would not be fully accessible to people with mobility disabilities like myself,” Jackson said in a statement provided by Disability Rights Advocates. “Libraries should welcome everyone, not exclude whole populations of people.”

CIDNY also lists in its complaints that there are long waits for the library’s sole elevator, and that three floors with comfortable lounging, study areas and bookshelves are not ADA-compliant because the areas can only be accessed by stairs. The group is asking the courts to demand the QBPL “implement a remedial plan to permanently remedy all barriers to equal access to Hunters Point Library.”

“The ADA is not a new requirement, and it is not hard to understand,” Andrea Kozak-Oxnard, an attorney at DRA, said in a statement. “It is baffling that this $41.5 million building is missing these fundamental elements.”

Elizabeth de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the QBPL, said in an emailed statement, “It is always the Library’s goal to be welcoming, open and available to everyone, including customers with disabilities. We are taking this matter very seriously.”

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) in a statement urged the QBPL to fix the issues outlined in the lawsuit.

“Libraries are the most Democratic institutions we have, and they must be accessible to all,” Van Bramer said in an email.

The alleged lack of ADA compliance is just one of many problems plaguing the building, according to the New York Post, which reported the $41.5-million structure also has leaky ceilings and inadequate space for shelves.

The branch, first proposed in 1998, opened in September after more than 10 years of delays in its design and construction. One eight-month delay was due to a strike in Spain, which held up the delivery of windows specially manufactured in Germany.

And any time the design was altered, city officials said, more money needed to be added to the project.

The eight-story building received positive reviews upon its long-anticipated opening, with New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman calling it “one of the finest public buildings New York has produced this century.”

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  • Buster57 posted at 6:24 pm on Fri, Dec 6, 2019.

    Buster57 Posts: 79

    I cannot believe that this passed any inspection!! When we put a LEGAL addition on our house for my Mom the DOB was all over us. Not that it needed ADA compliance (but it was made that way) they were ridiculous in their requirements. Meanwhile illegal 3 & 4 family houses are being built everywhere.

    With that said: THIS IS A DISGRACE and the builders, architects, DOB & ANYONE involved in this should be sued. All public spaces MUST be accessible & I'm still waiting for the MTA to comply also. It's not just Queens, Stan, it's the whole damn city!

    Meanwhile someone on the CurbedNY blog said "who cares" that it's not accessible - it's people like that that make this city suck.

    One day I pray one of those involved in this project needs assistance and doesn't get it. Or someone who parks in handicap parking, etc, etc. Karma baby!! Watch out!

  • stan chaz posted at 8:38 am on Fri, Dec 6, 2019.

    stan chaz Posts: 33

    To Mr. Kimmelman, the mighty architectural critic of the New York Times:

    The Hunter’s POont Library is not one of the finest public buildings if it’s not truly accessable to the public, in terms of the aged and the disabled.

    In fact I would say that as a building, it’s a failure.

    This is what happpens when you let architects run wild, not only with regard to ridiculous cost overruns & delays, but also with a disregard for the basic purpose and use of the building.

    We have a 41 milion dollar building that look great, but does not properly accomodate its functions, nor its clientele.

    These so-called architects (and architectural critics) have lost sight of the fundamental fact that public buildings are for people, not the other way around.

    And the Queens Public Library has proven itself irresponsible, both fiscally and in terms of sensible planning & design, as well as in terms of a concern and understanding of the needs & requirements of its diverse users.

    Something is indeed rotten in the “state” of Queens.