Class Action Lawsuit Filed Over Accessibility Issues at the New Hunters Point Library in New York City
We have learned that a class action lawsuit was filed this morning over accessibility issues with the new Hunters Point Library in New York City (a branch of the Queens Public Library) listing multiple causes of action including:
- Violation of Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act
- Violation of Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act
- Violation of Section 504
- Violation of The New York City Human Rights Law
Tanya Jackson and the Center For Independence of the Disabled, New York, are listed as the plaintiffs.
The Queens Borough Public Library, Board Of Trustees of Queens Borough Public Library, and the City Of New York are shown as the defendants.
From the Introduction:
This class action lawsuit seeks to rectify the systemic, discriminatory exclusion of persons with mobility disabilities from full and equal access to Hunters Point Library, the brand new $41.5 million branch of Queens Borough Public Library that opened in September 2019.
Heralded as a “stunning architectural marvel” and a “beacon of learning, literacy and culture,”1 the newly-built 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, which took effect in 1992, almost three decades ago.
Inaccessible features pervade the new Hunters Point Library (“the Library”), and exclude people with mobility disabilities from a variety of its offerings. For example, people with mobility disabilities are barred from using the three levels that are currently occupied by comfortable lounging and studying areas and large bookshelves, but which can only be accessed by stairs.
Moreover, adults and children with mobility disabilities are excluded from a large reading and small-group meeting space on the children’s floor that is entirely inaccessible due to its multi-level wooden seating and a large entry step.
Visitors with mobility disabilities who seek to use or attend events on the rooftop terrace will be similarly excluded due to the stair-only access to the upper level of the bi-level rooftop terrace. Such visitors will be denied the upper level’s stunning views of the East River and Manhattan.
Additional barriers, such as the presence of only a single heavily-utilized elevator, designated stroller parking areas that block the already-narrow paths between the elevator and some of the Library’s main features, and a lack of seating in the lobby to use while waiting for the elevator further exacerbate the exclusion of people with disabilities.
In describing the failure to create an accessible design for the new Library, a senior partner at Steven Holl Architects, the firm that designed the Library, admitted that “[t]o be honest, we hadn’t thought, ‘O.K. we have to provide an exactly equivalent browsing experience.’” Such disregard for the legal rights of people with disabilities—decades after the passage of the ADA—is all too apparent in the Library’s design.
During the Library’s inaugural opening, Library executives stated, “there is far more to a library than its design and physical structure that makes it soar. It is the experience of coming to a place that welcomes you, no matter who you are or where you are from…That is the promise we are committed to fulfilling…at Hunters Point Library[.]” And yet people with mobility disabilities have not been welcomed and instead have been denied the civil rights and societal inclusion promised to them by the decades of disability rights laws that Defendants have ignored.
Such laws are particularly explicit that new construction—which presents an opportunity to provide full inclusion for people with disabilities—should be held to the strictest accessibility standards, since it is minimally expensive or difficult to design accessible features from the beginning. It is inexcusable for a new building to ignore accessibility in its design.
Plaintiffs sue on behalf of themselves and persons with mobility disabilities who are being discriminated against by virtue of the exclusion of people with mobility disabilities from the full access to and experience of visiting Hunters Point Library. Plaintiffs seek only injunctive relief, not monetary damages, to have the barriers effectively and permanently remediated.
Direct to Full Text of Complaint
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.