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159_Opinion_and_Order.pdf

159_Opinion_and_Order.pdf

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Published by johnd7463
Federal ruling on NYC's violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Federal ruling on NYC's violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

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Published by: johnd7463 on Nov 08, 2013
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07/11/2014

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1 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK ---------------------------------------------------------------------- BROOKLYN CENTER FOR INDEPENDENCE OF THE DISABLED, a nonprofit organization, CENTER FOR INDEPENDENCE OF THE DISABLED, NEW YORK, a nonprofit organization, GREGORY D. BELL, and TANIA MORALES, Plaintiffs, -v- MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG, in his official capacity as Mayor of the City of New York, and THE CITY OF  NEW YORK, Defendants. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- X : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : X 11 Civ. 6690 (JMF) OPINION AND ORDER INTRODUCTION .......................................................................................................................... 2
 
FINDINGS OF FACT..................................................................................................................... 6
 
A.
 
Emergency Planning for People with Disabilities .............................................................. 6
 
B.
 
The City’s Emergency Planning Structure ......................................................................... 8
 
C.
 
Involving People with Disabilities in Emergency Planning ............................................. 11
 
D.
 
Evacuations ....................................................................................................................... 13
 
a.
 
Building Evacuations ..................................................................................................... 15
 
 b.
 
Transportation ................................................................................................................ 18
 
c.
 
The HEO ........................................................................................................................ 22
 
d.
 
Evacuations During Hurricane Sandy ............................................................................ 28
 
E.
 
The Shelter System and Sheltering in Place ..................................................................... 34
 
a.
 
The Architectural Accessibility of Shelters ................................................................... 36
 
 b.
 
The Programmatic Accessibility of Shelters .................................................................. 42
 
c.
 
The Shelter Survey ......................................................................................................... 50
 
d.
 
Refuges of Last Resort ................................................................................................... 52
 
e.
 
Sheltering in Place ......................................................................................................... 52
 
F.
 
Power Outages .................................................................................................................. 54
 
G.
 
Recovery Operations ......................................................................................................... 58
 
a.
 
Resource Provision ........................................................................................................ 59
 
 b.
 
Debris Removal ............................................................................................................. 61
 
c.
 
Interim Housing ............................................................................................................. 62
 
H.
 
Education and Outreach .................................................................................................... 64
 
11/07/2013
Case 1:11-cv-06690-JMF Document 159 Filed 11/07/13 Page 1 of 119
 
2 I.
 
Communications ............................................................................................................... 66
 
a.
 
Traditional Media........................................................................................................... 67
 
 b.
 
Websites ......................................................................................................................... 69
 
c.
 
The 311 System.............................................................................................................. 69
 
d.
 
The Special Needs Advance Warning System ............................................................... 72
 
e.
 
 Notify NYC .................................................................................................................... 75
 
f.
 
On-the-Ground Communication .................................................................................... 76
 
g.
 
The Content of Communication..................................................................................... 77
 
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW .......................................................................................................... 81
 
A.
 
Legal Standards ................................................................................................................. 81
 
a.
 
The ADA and Rehabilitation Act .................................................................................. 82
 
 b.
 
The NYCHRL ................................................................................................................ 87
 
B.
 
Discussion ......................................................................................................................... 89
 
a.
 
Evacuations .................................................................................................................... 89
 
 b.
 
The Shelter System and Sheltering in Place .................................................................. 93
 
i)
 
Architectural Accessibility ......................................................................................... 94
 
ii)
 
Programmatic Accessibility ...................................................................................... 100
 
iii)
 
Sheltering in Place .................................................................................................... 104
 
c.
 
Power Outages ............................................................................................................. 104
 
d.
 
Recovery Operations .................................................................................................... 106
 
i)
 
Resource Provision ................................................................................................... 106
 
ii)
 
Debris Removal ........................................................................................................ 106
 
iii)
 
Interim Housing ........................................................................................................ 107
 
e.
 
Communications .......................................................................................................... 108
 
i)
 
Outreach and Personal Emergency Planning ............................................................ 108
 
ii)
 
Communications During an Emergency................................................................... 110
 
f.
 
Other Issues .................................................................................................................. 113
 
i)
 
Inclusion of People with Disabilities in the Planning Process ................................. 113
 
ii)
 
Fundamental Alteration and Undue Hardship Defenses .......................................... 113
 
CONCLUSION ........................................................................................................................... 116
 
JESSE M. FURMAN, United States District Judge:
INTRODUCTION
The task of planning for, and responding to, emergencies and disasters is one of the most important, and challenging, tasks any government faces. Emergencies can take many forms — from power outages, to hurricanes, to terrorist attacks — and a government, particularly a local
Case 1:11-cv-06690-JMF Document 159 Filed 11/07/13 Page 2 of 119
 
3 government, must be prepared for them to strike at almost any moment. Such preparedness requires considerable planning, resources to execute those plans, and a willingness to learn from experience and revise plans that do not sufficiently accomplish their goals. Even then, each emergency is different and, to some extent, unpredictable, and no amount of planning or resources can fully prepare a local government to respond to what may come. Moreover, ultimately, there are limits to what the government can do on its own: Not only must a local government be prepared, but its residents must also prepare themselves. In recent years, New York City (the “City”) has faced more than its fair share of emergencies and disasters, from the September 
 
11th terrorist attacks in 2001; to Hurricane Irene in August 2011; to Hurricane Sandy, just over one year ago. Separate and apart from that tragic record, the task of planning for, and responding to, emergencies and disasters is especially challenging in New York City, given, among other things, the size and density of the City’s  population, its island geography, and its large daily commuter and tourist populations. Given those challenges, and what New York City has had to face in recent years, the City’s planning and response have been remarkable in many ways. In particular, the array and detail of its plans for every imaginable kind of emergency is impressive; and the valor and sacrifice of those who have come to the aid of New Yorkers in times of emergency, from first responders to volunteers, have been nothing short of extraordinary. This lawsuit does not challenge those facts. Far from it: In many respects, this lawsuit has confirmed them. Instead, the question in this lawsuit, certified as a class action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) , is whether in planning for, and responding to, emergencies and disasters, the City has adequately addressed the needs of people with disabilities — a segment of the population for which emergency planning is even more challenging and, some argue, more
Case 1:11-cv-06690-JMF Document 159 Filed 11/07/13 Page 3 of 119

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