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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.

According to New York City, of the more than eight million people living in the

City, “it is estimated that there are 889,219 individuals with disabilities, making up 11% of the

population. . . . [Of these,] 183,651 individuals have a serious hearing difficulty, 210,903 have

serious vision difficulties, and 535,840 individuals have difficulty walking or climbing stairs.”

(Ex. 120, at P003738; see also Ex. 7, at CNY000361-62 (providing social vulnerability statistics

by evacuation zone based on 2000 census data); Ex. 24 at CNY018522 (providing statistics

about the numbers of people with various disabilities living in New York City); Tr. 286:1-3

(Special Needs Coordinator Aaron Belisle discussing a “rule of thumb” that twenty percent of

the City’s population has some form of disability)).2

The City estimates that, within just the area

2

Exhibit 120 is one of two briefing papers prepared by committees of the New York City
Council in advance of hearings on Hurricane Sandy that Plaintiffs offered at trial. (See also Ex.
115). Defendants objected to admission of these documents on the basis that they are hearsay.
(See Docket No. 128). Defendants later objected on the same basis to statements of New York
City Council members contained within a transcript of a City Council hearing (Ex. 116). (See

Case 1:11-cv-06690-JMF Document 159 Filed 11/07/13 Page 6 of 119

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that was subject to the mandatory evacuation order during Hurricane Sandy, “there are at least

118,000 people with disabilities.” (Ex. 120 at P003738).

2.

People with disabilities face unique challenges in responding to emergencies.

(See, e.g., Ex. 65, at CNY020238). They may, for example, rely on the availability of elevators,

accessible transportation, accessible communication, or electricity-powered medical devices, any

or all of which may be compromised in an emergency.3

(See Blanck Decl. ¶ 28; see also Bell

Decl. ¶ 18 (“As a result of my blindness and PTSD, I am unable to react as quickly and easily to

new and dangerous situations without accommodations. Because of my [disabilities], I need to

plan ahead to make sure that my needs would be met during travel and at a shelter . . . .”);

Buckner Decl. ¶ 13 (“Being blind and unable to drive, if I cannot arrange transportation, I am

stuck wherever I happen to be.”); Halbert Decl. ¶ 9 (“There are things that I cannot do as quickly

or at all as compared to people without disabilities. For example, I cannot run out of a high-rise

building in an emergency.”); Morales Decl. ¶ 10 (“If I am at home and the power goes out, I do

not know how I could evacuate because I have to use a motorized lift to get up and down the

stairs at my house.”)).

3.

Thus, as the City itself concedes, it is particularly important to account for the

needs of people with disabilities in emergency planning. (See Defs.’ Response to Statement of

Ex. 566, at 4). The parties have stipulated to the admissibility of certain portions of these City
Council documents. (See Ex. 566, at 3-4). Because this Opinion relies only on those portions,
the Court need not decide whether any other portions of the documents are admissible.

3

“Accessible” is a term of art in the context of addressing the needs of people with
disabilities. See, e.g., Report of Committee on Education and Labor, H.R. Rep. 101-485, pt. 2, at
117-18 (1990), reprinted in 1990 U.S.C.C.A.N. 303, 400-01; Report of Committee on the
Judiciary, H.R. Rep. 101-485, pt. 3, at 60, reprinted in 1990 U.S.C.C.A.N. 445, 483. As
discussed in more detail below, regulations issued pursuant to the ADA by the United States
Department of Justice provide standards for determining whether a particular facility or service
is accessible to people with disabilities. See, e.g., 49 C.F.R. Part 36 (providing standards for
accessible design); id. Parts 37-38 (providing standards for accessible transportation).

Case 1:11-cv-06690-JMF Document 159 Filed 11/07/13 Page 7 of 119

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Interest of United States 6 n.1 (Docket No. 157); see also, e.g., Ex. 65, at CNY020275

(“Planners must compensate for their increased vulnerability by addressing, specifically, the

needs of people with disabilities during the planning process.”); id. at CNY020277 (“Emergency

planners must plan ahead to effectively provide services and communicate with people with

disabilities before, during, and after an emergency.”); Ex. 153, at P001974 (“The importance of

advance[ ] planning in developing and implementing [accommodations for people with

disabilities] in general population shelters cannot be overstated. . . . [Accommodations for people

with disabilities] cannot wait to be identified and put into place once an emergency or disaster

occurs.”); see also McKinney Dep. 90:9-24 (OEM Deputy Commissioner for Planning testifying

that it is important to plan for the needs of people with disabilities)). Indeed, the National

Council on Disability, an independent federal agency charged with advising the President,

Congress, and other agencies regarding policies, practices, and procedures that affect people with

disabilities, has opined that the failure to address the specific vulnerabilities of people with

disabilities in emergency planning “often leads to increased injury and death rates among this

segment of the population during disasters.” (Ex. 65, at CNY020275; see also Blanck Decl. ¶ 34

(“When there is a lack of system-wide disaster planning for persons with disabilities . . . persons

with disabilities are vulnerable to significant life-threatening harm.”)).

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