NYC sues architecture firm behind new Long Island City library over accessibility issues

May 19, 2023

© Paul Warchol

New York City has filed a lawsuit against the architects behind the inaccessible Hunters Point Library in Long Island City, as first reported by Crain’s New York. Filed in Manhattan State Supreme Court on Wednesday, the lawsuit claims Steven Holl Architects violated its contract with the city by designing an inaccessible building. The suit says that the architecture firm should be forced to pay $10 million to cover the renovations needed to make the building accessible for people with disabilities.

© Steven Holl Architects

In addition to the breach of contract, the city accuses the firm of negligence and malpractice for not identifying its inaccessible design features sooner. The lawsuit lays out a series of inaccessible building features, including the library’s narrow staircase, tiers of shelves, rooftop terrace, a second-floor children’s area with multiple levels of steps, and small bathrooms with no space for wheelchair users to move freely.

The $41 million architecturally stunning building, located on the Long Island City waterfront, opened to the public in September 2019. The 32,000-square-foot building contains three sections for children, teens, and adults, and a reading garden located on a landscaped rooftop. Its facade features glazed cuts that follow the movement of the stairs, allowing for views of the East River, the United Nations, and beyond.

However, the building’s inaccessible features were quickly identified. While praised by architecture critics for its unique design, visitors immediately took issue with the fact that the library’s fiction section was located on the third floor and solely accessible by stairs. In response to criticism, the library moved its fiction shelves to an accessible part of the library.

“The community library is public architecture which we love and will continue to support in any way we can,” a spokeswoman from Steven Holl Architects said in a statement to Crain’s. “Since the City has made the unfortunate decision to commence a lawsuit, we will not be commenting further at this time and intend to vigorously defend against these claims.”

In November 2019, disability rights groups filed a civil suit claiming that the Hunters Point Library failed to provide full access for those with mobility disabilities. The suit, filed by the Center for Independence of the Disabled New York and the Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), said that the library violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).


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