Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, today hailed the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), which was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. The ADA is a transformative law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodation, including all hotels, restaurants, retail stores, theaters, health care facilities, convention centers, parks, and places of recreation (Title III), in all activities of state and local governments (Title II), and in employment (Title I). The ADA empowers the Department of Justice to investigate, litigate, and resolve complaints of discrimination as well as authorizing the Government to conduct compliance reviews of covered entities.
Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “Since the passage of the ADA, this Office has taken a leading role in bringing major New York City landmarks into compliance with the ADA to improve access for people with disabilities. As we mark the 30th anniversary of this landmark civil rights law this weekend, and notwithstanding the limitations imposed by COVID, we continue to investigate and litigate significant ADA cases.”
Since the passage of the ADA in 1990, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has brought numerous New York City institutions into compliance with the ADA, through court-approved consent decrees and voluntary compliance agreements. Through hundreds of ADA cases, the Office has required places of public accommodation to eliminate barriers to access, alter or amend policies or procedures, and agree to welcome service animals. In addition, the Office has required state and local governments to make public services and facilities more accessible to people with disabilities and compelled state and local government employers who discriminated against people with disabilities to remedy their conduct and compensate victims. Major accomplishments include:
- THE VESSEL: On December 20, 2019, the Office entered into a voluntary compliance agreement with Related Companies, the developer of Hudson Yards, to increase the accessibility of New York City’s newest public landmark, the Vessel. Because the Vessel is a multi-story, open air structure composed of a network of interconnected stairways, it is inaccessible to individuals with mobility impairments. The settlement requires Related to install a one-of-a-kind platform lift, allowing individuals with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs, to traverse the stairways and platforms at the top two levels of the Vessel, all on a single platform lift.
- NYC SUBWAYS: On March 6, 2019, the Office prevailed in a motion for partial summary judgment against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York City Transit for their failure to install elevators during the renovation of the Middletown Road subway station in the Bronx. In a landmark decision, the court ruled that the ADA required the MTA to install elevators during the renovation of the station, without regard to cost, unless it was technically infeasible to do so.
- NEW YORK STATE DIABETES GUIDANCE: On May 30, 2017, the Office announced that it had resolved complaints filed by parents of children with diabetes that recently developed guidelines from the New York State Education Department (“NYSED”) interfered with their children’s diabetes treatment while in school, in violation of the ADA. The guidelines prompted schools to reject certain types of orders issued by physicians treating children with diabetes because the orders authorized parents and guardians to be involved in the adjustment of their child’s diabetes medication administered by the school healthcare team. NYSED agreed to amend the guidelines and provided a model form for physicians to use to authorize the involvement of parents and guardians in adjustment decisions where appropriate.
- NEDERLANDER THEATERS: On January 29, 2014, the Office entered into a Consent Decree with the Nederlander Organization, Inc., which owns and operates nine landmarked Broadway theaters: the Brooks Atkinson, the Gershwin, the Lunt Fontanne, the Marquis, the Minskoff, the Nederlander, the Neil Simon, the Palace, and the Richard Rodgers. Under the Consent Decree, the Nederlander Organization agreed to make these theaters accessible to people with disabilities in compliance with the ADA by providing accessible seating, restrooms, and other facilities.
- NYC RESTAURANTS INITIATIVE: In 2013, the Office announced that it had entered into two Consent Decrees with major New York City restaurants to improve compliance with the ADA, particularly with regard to entrances, seating, and restroom facilities. The restaurants were Rosa Mexicano, on January 30, 2013, and Carmine’s, on November 12, 2013. These resolutions were reached as part of the Office’s Restaurants Initiative, which investigated whether NYC’s top 50 Zagat-rated restaurants, some of which had more than one location, complied with the ADA. As a result of the Restaurants Initiative, the Office entered into Consent Decrees with five restaurants, voluntary compliance agreements with 20 restaurants, and letters of resolution with 26 restaurants.
- LINCOLN CENTER: On June 28, 2012, the Office announced a Consent Decree with Avery Fisher Hall, under which that theater agreed to install additional wheelchair and companion seating, renovate restrooms, and remove barriers to access, among other things, to make the venue more accessible to people with disabilities. Similarly, on January 13, 2011, the Office announced a Consent Decree with the Metropolitan Opera, under which the Opera agreed to install additional wheelchair and companion seating, renovate restrooms, and remove barriers to access, among other things, to make the venue more accessible to people with disabilities.
- TIMES SQUARE HOTELS INITIATIVE: On July 26, 2010, the Office marked the 20th anniversary of the ADA by announcing that as a result of a compliance initiative, it had entered into a number of voluntary compliance agreements with Times Square hotels to increase the accessibility of hotel rooms and common areas. As a result of the Hotels Initiative, the Office entered into Consent Decrees with five hotels, and voluntary compliance agreements with 41 hotels.
- YANKEE STADIUM: On April 14, 2009, the Office announced that it had completed its review of the new Yankee Stadium, resulting in an agreement with the Yankees to provide over 500 wheelchair spaces and 500 companion seats, accessible entrances, ticket windows, bars, lounges, restrooms, and other amenities. The Office had joined a lawsuit against the old Yankee Stadium for being inaccessible to people with disabilities; a Consent Decree resolving that suit and bringing the Stadium into closer compliance with the ADA was entered in December 1999.
- MADISON SQUARE GARDEN: On November 5, 2007, the Office entered into a comprehensive Consent Decree with Madison Square Garden, under which the Garden agreed for the first time to provide seating for people with disabilities at a variety of seating areas in the Garden. The Garden further agreed to pay a $55,000 penalty for operating out of compliance with the ADA.
- APOLLO THEATER: On June 28, 2005, the Office entered into a Consent Decree with the historic Apollo Theater, under which the theater, for the first time in its storied history, agreed to provide seating locations for wheelchair users and renovate its entrances, bathrooms, and other amenities so that they would be fully accessible to people with disabilities.
- SHUBERT THEATERS: On September 25, 2003, the Office entered into a Consent Decree with the Shubert Organization, Inc., which owns and operates 16 landmarked Broadway theaters: the Ambassador, the Barrymore, the Belasco, the Booth, the Broadhurst, the Broadway, the Cort, the Golden, the Imperial, the Longacre, the Lyceum, the Music Box, the Plymouth, the Royale, the Shubert, and the Winter Garden. Under the Consent Decree, the Shubert Organization agreed to make these theaters accessible to people with disabilities in compliance with the ADA by providing accessible seating, restrooms, and other facilities.
- RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL: On February 11, 1999, the Office entered into a Consent Decree with Radio City Music Hall, requiring it to provide a wide range of accessibility improvements, including 50 wheelchair and companion seats, 240 assistive listening devices, and accessible restrooms, concession stands, and bathrooms.
For more information about the 30th Anniversary of the ADA, please visit www.ada.gov.
The Office’s Civil Rights Unit handles complaints of noncompliance with the ADA. Members of the public with a complaint relating to ADA compliance may use the following link to submit a complaint: https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/civil-rights