Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer issued a report finding that fewer than 10 percent of curb cuts along the entire length of Broadway in Manhattan fully comply with the specifications of the Americans with Disabilities Act, whose 25th anniversary was celebrated earlier this month.
“If fewer than 10 percent of our curb cuts are up to code and accessible on our longest, most recognizable commercial street, we have a problem,” Brewer said. “The ADA’s 25th anniversary isn’t just a time to celebrate the progress we’ve achieved – it’s a time to double down on the work that still needs to be done to make our city safe, navigable, and welcoming for New Yorkers with disabilities.”
Starting in September 2014, more than 40 staff and volunteers from Brewer’s office surveyed 1,357 locations where curb cuts are mandated by law along Broadway, from Bowling Green through Inwood. Of those locations, only 1,209 curb cuts could be located and measured. The remaining 142 curb cuts (10.5 percent) counted as missing were either entirely absent or obstructed by barriers. In addition:
• 6 percent led directly into a pothole,
• 18 percent were blocked by street furniture such as garbage cans, newsstands, or scaffolding,
• 24 percent were crumbling,
• 28 percent were too steeply sloped to comply with ADA specifications, and
• Nearly 90 percent were missing the required “bumps” to warn vision-impaired New Yorkers of the presence of a ramp.
“We are so pleased to have the Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer join us in documenting the inaccessibility of New York City streets and sidewalks. The surveys mirror our findings for lower Manhattan,” said Susan M. Dooha, executive director of the Center for the Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY). “Twenty-five years after the passage of the ADA, people with disabilities should be able to cross intersections safely to get to work, visit friends, go to appointments and enjoy our city, just like everyone else.”
“Curb-cuts and ramps help citizens who are disabled to more fully participate in society,” said Alan R. Morse, president and CEO of Lighthouse Guild. “It is imperative that they always be included and compliant with ADA guidelines to ensure that all New Yorkers have safe access to our city.”
Under Section 19-152 of the New York City Administrative Code, property owners are responsible for the installation and repair of sidewalks adjoining their properties, including curb cuts, while the city Department of Transportation is responsible for inspections and oversight. When property owners are given notice of deficiencies and fail to maintain sidewalks, the Department of Transportation is authorized to retain private construction firms and bill property owners for the needed repairs.
In the report, Brewer states “this system is not working,” citing the widespread noncompliance her office’s canvass found along Broadway, and noting even when property owners undertake repairs, they are sometimes inconsistent with ADA specifications. Brewer’s report recommends the city step up efforts to educate property owners on their responsibilities and ADA requirements, and more resources for the Department of Transportation to undertake inspections and compliance work.