A year ago this month it was confirmed that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York was investigating the lack of handicapped accessibility at the newly built, $41.5 million Hunters Point Library that overlooks the East River in Long Island City.
Now there appears to be some movement in the November 2019 lawsuit that is believed to have triggered the interest of federal authorities.
Tanya Jackson, who uses a walker, and the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York allege in their suit that numerous areas of the building, such as a portion of the children’s section and a rooftop terrace, are inaccessible to people who cannot use stairs; and that the elevator does not stop at all floors.
“The parties are currently engaged in ongoing settlement negotiations,” said Andrea Kozak-Oxnar, a staff attorney for the Manhattan-based Disability Rights Advocates in an email to the Chronicle on Tuesday evening. She did not elaborate further. A statement from the Queens Library also did not delve into specifics.
“The Library continues to work diligently to resolve accessibility concerns that have been raised about our Hunters Point branch,” the library said in an email. “While the Library cannot comment on pending litigation, it is our goal to ensure access to all customers, including customers with disabilities. The Hunters Point branch is currently open for to-go service.”
A spokesman for acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme declined to comment on the matter.
The library, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, spent much of 2020 inaccessible to any members of the public. It was one of a dozen throughout Queens that opened in November only for takeout service of materials that are picked up after reserving them online. Materials are returned via repositories that are accessed from outside the library, with no browsing, seating or other public activity taking place inside.
Discussed for two decades, the project had a long and difficult history prior to its opening in September 2019. Ground was broken in 2015 for a proposed 2017 opening. Numerous design changes were needed along the way to keep the project in budget, leading to multiple delays.
At one point the delivery of large exterior windows — made in Germany — was delayed by a longshoremen’s strike in Spain, which pushed the estimated opening to December 2018.
Later on safety concerns were raised that walls and railings on upper floors were too low and had to be upgraded.