New York Lawyers for the Public Interest Secures Accessibility Victory for Tenants with Disabilities
Queens landlord completes construction of ramp, making East Elmhurst apartment building wheelchair-accessible
New York, NY – October 17, 2017 – New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), a leading civil rights advocacy organization for marginalized New Yorkers, announced today that, following extensive advocacy, Queens landlord Nouri Realty LLC unveiled a wheelchair ramp which makes an East Elmhurst apartment building accessible to its numerous tenants with disabilities.
NYLPI was approached in March 2017 by the parents of fourteen-year-old Rosa Martinez, who has multiple disabilities and uses a wheelchair. The Martinez family has resided in the building for seven years, and each time Rosa wanted to go in or out of the building, her parents had to carry her and her more than 50-pound wheelchair up and down the stairs. As Rosa grew, this already difficult task became close to impossible. All too often, Rosa and her mother were forced to stay home and miss out on numerous activities, including simple shopping trips or a walk to the park, as Rosa’s mother could not maneuver the steps with Rosa and Rosa’s wheelchair by herself – especially in inclement weather.
Rosa’s parents expressed their concerns to building management, not only for Rosa’s safety but also for the safety of other tenants, who had to be carried with their heavy wheelchairs up and down the building’s stairs every time they wanted to enter or exit the building. The requests for a simple ramp to span four steps, made by both the Martinez family and other tenants, however, went unheeded for over two years, until NYLPI intervened.
NYLPI advised the landlord that the federal Fair Housing Act, as well as the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws, prohibit landlords from discriminating on the basis of disability, and require apartment buildings to comply with disability accessibility standards. The landlord responded by installing a ramp which will afford easy, independent, equal, and dignified access to all tenants and guests with disabilities.
Stuart Parker, a retired NYPD Assistant Ccommissioner and former NYLPI board member, who represented Rosa Martinez and another tenant, Russel Janin, pro bono, stated: “We are pleased that when the building management understood that the Fair Housing laws required wheelchair access to the building, it took prompt steps to install a ramp. This responsible action should serve as a model for owners of other buildings across the City.”
Russell Janin, who has lived in the building for 14 years, stated that “the installation of the ramp makes my life a lot easier. Before, I would have to carry my walker up and down the stairs. I am grateful to NYLPI for making the installation of this ramp possible.”
Rosa Martinez’ father, David Martinez said: “We are forever grateful for NYLPI’s advocacy on our behalf. NYLPI worked hard to get the landlord to install a ramp to benefit persons with disabilities. It was very difficult to carry Rosa and her wheelchair up and down the stairs more than fourteen times a week.”
“No one has the right to interfere with a person’s quality of life, and people with disabilities must have equal access to their homes and apartments. Inaccessible apartment buildings are a pervasive problem in New York City, and building owners are often reluctant to make needed changes. NYLPI is committed to vigorously enforcing the laws which promise all New Yorkers the opportunity to live fully and independently, regardless of their disabilities. This ramp means freedom for so many tenants who were not able to leave the building in a safe and dignified manner,” said Paola Martinez Boone, Senior Advocate in NYLPI’s Disability Justice Program.
About New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest advances equality and civil rights, with a focus on health justice, disability rights and environmental justice, through the power of community lawyering and partnerships with the private bar. Through community lawyering, NYLPI puts its legal, policy and community organizing expertise at the service of New York City communities and individuals. NYLPI’s partnership with the private bar strengthens its advocacy and connects community groups and nonprofits with critical legal assistance.
Click here to read the article from New York Nonprofit.