Long Island City resident sues Queens Public Library for inaccessibility issues at Hunters Point Library

Photo by Mark Hallum

Accessibility issues at the brand-new $41.5 million Hunters Point Library has led to a lawsuit.

Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) filed a class action lawsuit against Queens Public Library, its Board of Trustees and the City of New York, challenging the inaccessibility at the waterfront facility on Center Boulevard.

Plaintiffs Tanya Jackson, a Long Island City resident, and the Center for Independence of the Disabled New York are suing to require the library to fix what they call an unjust and discriminatory situation. Under longstanding disability rights laws, newly constructed buildings must be made fully accessible to people with disabilities, yet Hunters Point Library excludes persons with disabilities from full and equal access to its services through reliance on stairs and other inaccessible features, according to the lawsuit.

“It is shocking to me that a brand-new public library would not be fully accessible to people with mobility disabilities like myself,” Jackson said. “Libraries should welcome everyone, not exclude whole populations of people.”

The barriers at Hunters Point Library are numerous, according to the lawsuit, including three levels that are completely inaccessible to people with mobility disabilities. The children’s section contains multi-level wooden lounging and a small-group meeting space inaccessible to children and caregivers with mobility disabilities. Additionally, the rooftop terrace has no access for people with disabilities and there are long waits for the heavily utilized single elevator, which does not stop at every level.

“Twenty-nine years after the ADA promised open doors and equal opportunities for people with disabilities, we find the doors of a brand-new library shut to children and adults with disabilities. This should not be allowed to happen,” Center for Independence New York Executive Director Susan M. Dooha said. “The Queens Borough Public Library and the city of New York must obey the law and make this right.”

DRA’s goal is that the lawsuit will rectify the exclusion of people with disabilities by requiring the defendants to develop and implement a remedial plan to provide equal access to Hunters Point Library.

“This morning we learned that a disability rights organization filed a lawsuit against the library and the city of New York alleging that Hunters Point is not accessible to people living with disabilities,” Queens Public Library spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon said. “It is always the library’s goal to be welcoming, open and available to everyone, including customers with disabilities. We are taking the matter very seriously.”

The DRA notes that ADA is not a new requirement, and it is not hard to understand.

“It is baffling that this $41.5 million building is missing these fundamental elements,” DRA Staff Attorney Andrea Kozak-Oxnard said. “It’s as though the library didn’t care about these requirements, or worse, didn’t even consider the needs of these members of the community. People with disabilities should be able to browse, relax and enjoy the library just like everyone else.”

The suit alleges violations of federal and local civil rights laws designed to eliminate disability-based discrimination.

“Hunters Point Library was meant to be a model, state-of-the-art institution designed to serve the needs of the community,” DRA Managing Director of Litigation Michelle Caiola said. “The library’s total disregard for adults and children with disabilities must be addressed.”