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Advocates, NYC Agree on New Disaster Shelters

Disability Advocates, NYC Agree on Vast New Shelter System 

Agreement Settles 2011 Lawsuit, Will Create 60 Accessible Shelters in Five Boroughs

Nov. 3, '14
By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

If an agreement just reached between the City of New York and two disability-rights groups goes as planned, the Big Apple will have 60 shelters fully accessible and open to the disability city-wide public in case of major disaster within three years.

What’s more, under the agreement, at least eight of them were immediately readied for public use by mid-October, creating disabled-accessible facilities that could hold an estimated minimum of 10,000 refugees across the five boroughs of New York in case of mass evacuation need.

An estimated 900,000 individuals with disabilities reside in New York.

A class-action lawsuit was brought in 2011 on their behalf against the city by Disability Rights Advocates and one other firm, alleging that New York had failed to have adequate plans to help shelter, transport and evacuate people with disabilities in the immediate wake of Tropical Storm Irene.

The agreement puts New York City “at the forefront of emergency preparedness nationwide in assuring that individuals with disabilities will have meaningful access to essential services during emergencies,” said New York City corporation counsel Zachary W. Carter in a statement.

Also under the agreement, in the event of major disasters, New York City is required to deploy door-to-door volunteers and city personnel to determine critical needs like food, water, power medical care and evacuation.

All Hamaspik divisions have long maintained protocols for usage in the event of emergency, including relocating group-home residents after the Irene and Sandy storm events.

The settlement sprung from a preliminary ruling issued last November by Federal District Court Judge Jesse Furman that the city had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) via “benign neglect” by not having such a protocol in place.