Photo © Paul Warchol
A disability rights group filed a lawsuit on Tuesday that claims a new public library in Queens does not provide full access for those with mobility disabilities. The civil suit, filed by the Center for Independence of the Disabled New York and the Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), says the newly constructed Hunters Point Library in Long Island City, which took nearly a decade to build and cost more than $41 million, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While the library opened in September to praise from architecture critics for its innovative design, visitors immediately criticized the building’s third level fiction section, accessible only by stairs.
Photo © Steven Holl Architects
The suit claims the building “shockingly excludes persons with mobility disabilities from full and equal access to its services through the reliance of stairs and other inaccessible features.” According to the plaintiffs, the Hunters Point Library features multiple inaccessible areas for those with disabilities, including the multi-level wooden lounge area and meeting space in the children’s section and the rooftop terrace.
Plus, the suit claims the building’s single elevator often has long waits and does not stop on every floor, with the designated “stroller parking” areas blocking its path. Andrea Kozak-Oxnard, a staff attorney with the DRA, said it’s “baffling” a project that cost $41.5 million would not comply with ADA standards.
“It’s as though the library didn’t care about these requirements, or worse didn’t even consider the needs of these members of the community,” Kozak-Oxnard said in a statement. “People with disabilities should be able to browse, relax, and enjoy the library just like everyone else.”
In response to criticism over the inaccessible third-level fiction section, the Queens Public Library announced plans to relocate the books to a new location. And the library has previously said it does comply with the ADA.
“The building complies with all building codes, including the ADA,” Elisabeth de Bourbon, a spokesperson for the library, said in an earlier statement. “Our staff has been and will continue to retrieve books for customers, and we are going to offer devices that allow customers to browse the materials available in those areas.”
Designed by Steven Holl Architects, the Hunters Point Library sits on the waterfront, its unique carved windows allowing for stunning skyline views. New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman had called the library “among the finest and most uplifting public buildings New York has produced so far this century.” But despite the positive reviews for its design, the library was plagued by delays, strikes, and financial struggles.
In addition to this current lawsuit challenging its inaccessibility, the New York Post reported last month the library was also facing leaking ceilings, an inadequately sound-proofed quiet room, cracks in the floor, and bleachers deemed unsafe for children.
The goal of the advocacy groups’ lawsuit is for the Queens Public Library and the city to fix the accessibility issues and “implement a remedial plan to provide equal access to Hunters Point Library,” according to the press release.
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Neighborhoods : Long Island City