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June 2016

 

FOUR FREEDOMS

City Pressures Park to Make Access Improvements

There has been an ongoing accessibility battle between the New York City Mayor’s Office and the group that built and runs the Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island.

While there have been some modifications to make the park more accessible since it opened in 2012, its sunken terrace FOUR FREEDOMS City Pressures Park to Make Access Improvements with a popular scenic view of the East River can only be reached by climbing down steps, which excludes people who use wheelchairs and other mobility equipment. Some disability groups claim that there are other aspects of the park that aren’t fully accessible either. New York City is withholding a permanent certificate of occupancy and $900,000 in funding until the issue is resolved. In the meantime, the terrace has been closed to everyone.

According to the mayor’s office, the current design is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has been working with the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy and has met with them during the past year to find a solution. The city has even offered the board a way to make the park accessible by installing ramps for about $350,000 to $400,000.

Kahn’s Design

 However, the conservancy wants the park to stay true to the original vision of the architect, Louis Kahn, who designed it shortly before his death in 1974, years before the ADA was enacted. However, construction did not begin until 2010, long after the act was enforced.

Representatives of the conservancy claim that they carefully considered the possibility of making further modifications, but they would not be feasible, and it would comprise the design. They also insist that the park as a whole more than meets ADA guidelines.

“There is a particularly tragic irony in a park commemorating the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of this country’s great historical figures with a disability and a role model to so many, that is not completely accessible to those with disabilities. The de Blasio administration is committed to making sure this is corrected and has worked tirelessly to assist Four Freedoms Conservancy in addressing these issues,” said Natalie Grybauskas, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office.

Roosevelt – A Wheelchair User

The memorial to the nation’s 32nd president is maintained and operated in partnership with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Roosevelt used a wheelchair during his presidency due to polio. Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) supported efforts to ensure that he would be memorialized as a wheelchair user as part of the FDR Memorial in Washington, DC. The statue of Roosevelt using a wheelchair was dedicated in 2001.

PVA Says

“Anytime a public space is not fully accessible to all, it is indicative of a larger, more pervasive issue of discrimination that deserves attention,” said Paralyzed Veterans of America Acting Exec. Dir. Sherman Gillums. “The ADA, passed more than 25 years ago, promises equality of opportunity by prohibiting disability-based discrimination and removing barriers to participation for people with disabilities.

“The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park was in planning for more than two years before construction began in 2010. Paralyzed Veterans of America sees no acceptable reason it should not be fully accessible to all Americans.”

A recent New York Times article, quoted the president of the conservancy as saying “the consequences of compromising the architect’s original design vision by making the park fully accessible outweighed the value. “ “

The value of the civil rights of our nation’s veterans and all persons with disabilities should outweigh design vision and budget constraints,” said Gillums. “

Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island should be wheelchair accessible,” said James Weisman, president of United Spinal Association. “A park dedicated to our only wheelchair using president should be 100 percent accessible to wheelchair users. Besides, the law requires it.”

 

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