Accessible Manhattan: Making sidewalks safe & navigable for all Gale A. Brewer MANHATTAN BOROUGH PRESIDENT
Introduction New Yorkers’ close relationship with their sidewalks is long and storied, going back to 1811 when the city’s street commissioners certified the grid that mapped out the 11 major avenues and 155 crosstown streets along which our borough would grow. Manhattan’s street grid spurred unprecedented economic development and personal mobility: pedestrians were able to figure out where they stood, physically and metaphorically, to get where they wanted to go. DE DICAT ION Given the historical link between Manhattan sidewalks and personal success, it is important that our pedestrian pathways be accessible and conveIn honor of the nient to all residents. Unfortunately, this is not the case in 2015 Manhattan. 25th anniversary of the signing of Crumbling concrete and potholes can make navigating Manhattan streets the Americans with problematic even for abled-bodied New Yorkers—just ask anyone who has pushed a stroller or pulled a food cart for more than a couple blocks. But for Disabilities Act, the roughly 600,000 New Yorkers who rely on wheelchairs or walkers or this report is have vision impairments, the dilapidated conditions of Manhattan’s curb dedicated to the cuts—sidewalk cutouts that, when in proper form, allow for a smooth tireless activists descent into the street—are a serious concern. and organizers The Manhattan Borough President’s Office (MBPO) has received comwho helped bring plaints about the condition of curb cuts from nearly every neighborhood in this historic piece the borough. Accessibility concerns have also been raised by the disability of legislation advocates with whom we closely work. to enactment. To gain a better understanding of the problem, we spent a year canvassing Manhattan’s curb cuts—also called “curb ramps” or “pedestrian ramps.” Of the 1,209 curb cuts our volunteers measured, only 115 (9.5%) were fully compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility standards. This report presents and analyzes our data and makes recommendations for correcting existing problems and ensuring that all future New York City curb cuts are fully ADA-compliant.
Removing barriers for New Yorkers with disabilities New Yorkers who do not have a disability often take equal-access accommodations for granted. But for residents protected by the ADA, challenges lurk at every turn—from inaccessible subway stations to limited career opportunities and a dearth of high school programs that focus on career and college readiness for students with disabilities. According to 2005-2007 statistics from American Community Survey Public Use Microdata, persons with disabilities over age 5 comprise 13.6% of Manhattan’s population (196,600 out of 1,253,980 individuals). Roughly 34% of this population lives below the poverty line, and 61% of those with disabilities ages 21 to 64 are not in the labor force.1
The signing of the ADA in 1990 began a new chapter in the lives of millions of persons with disabilities across the United States, offering fair treatment and new opportunities that would remove barriers to employment and lift more of them out of poverty. The ADA prohibits disabilitybased discrimination in language similar to how the 1964 Civil Rights Act made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal. The ADA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities and imposes accessibility requirements on public accommodations. On July 26, 2015, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of this landmark legislation, which was the culmination of decades’ worth of hard and persistent work by the disability rights movement. Since then, these advocates have only doubled down in their heroic fight to ensure that those living with a disability have access to everything our society has to offer and are not excluded from it. New York City has done much to make our streets safer for those livi