New York, NY - April 8, 2014 - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with Vornado Realty Corporation, one of the largest owners and managers of commercial real estate in the U.S., that will ensure that individuals with disabilities are provided equal access to parking lots and garages at 20 shopping centers in New York owned by the company. The settlement requires that the facilities are upgraded so they comply with requirements and design standards set forth in the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, so those with disabilities have access to the goods and services that are available at the centers.
“Everyone in New York State deserves equal access to retail establishments, regardless of disability status, in order to enjoy a full and independent life--and because it's the law," Attorney General Schneiderman said. "This agreement ensures that any barriers at Vornado's shopping centers will be removed, to the benefit of New Yorkers from all walks of life. I commend Vornado for agreeing to take the steps necessary to make their lots and garages fully accessible for all New Yorkers.”
Vornado, a real estate investment fund which owns and manages more than 100 million square feet of commercial real estate in the U.S., owns 20 shopping centers in New York that are subject to the agreement. This case is part of Attorney General Schneiderman’s ongoing initiative to ensure that retail establishments across New York provide equal access to all shoppers. In 2012, the office secured agreements with Century 21, JC Penney, Loehmann’s and Petland Discounts. Those agreements require over 100 stores to comply with accessibility requirements. More information about them can be found here.
After reviewing information received by the Attorney General's Office regarding accessibility barriers at a Vornado garage -- in the Rego Center, located at 61-35 Junction Boulevard, in Queens -- the Civil Rights Bureau sent investigators to examine the parking lots and garages at the Rego Center and a second Vornado-owned shopping center, at 1750-1780 Gun Hill Road in the Bronx. The bureau also retained an expert to survey the Rego Center garage. Among concerns identified by the expert was a ramp that, by law, was too steep, missing handrails, and an accessible route that ended at an abrupt step down into the parking area.
Under the agreement, Vornado will identify and remediate accessibility barriers in the parking structures at the 20 New York shopping centers. Five of the centers are in NYC and seven are on Long Island. Others are located in Albany, Broome, Dutchess, Erie, Monroe, Onondaga and Westchester counties. In addition, at the Flushing Shopping Center in Flushing, Queens, Vornado will seek to secure cooperation from its subtenant to address any barriers that may exist at that site.
The settlement requires Vornado to retain an ADA expert to survey the parking lots and garages at the locations, produce reports identifying where barriers exist, and take remedial action to bring each lot or garage into compliance with New York State's human rights laws and federal accessibility standards within one year.
The company must also adopt policies, procedures and training for employees about the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure ongoing compliance with accessibility requirements. It will also ensure that any new parking structure construction complies with state and federal accessibility laws and standards. Vornado will pay $70,000 in penalties and fees.
Therese E. Brzezinski, Director of Advocacy and Community Policy at the Long Island Center for Independent Living, Inc., said, "Ensuring access in the parking lots and garages of shopping centers is a necessary first step to ensuring that individuals with disabilities have access to the retail establishments we all depend on for goods and services. This agreement places commercial landlords across the state on notice that they have important obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and makes clear that the Attorney General will fight to ensure compliance with the law."
Brett Eisenberg, Executive Director of Bronx Independent Living Services, said, “We commend Attorney General Schneiderman for the far-reaching work of his office to ensure equal access for all New Yorkers, regardless of their disability status. With this agreement, his office has made a significant effort to ensure that individuals with disabilities have the access they need to perform essential functions, such as shopping for groceries, clothes and other daily necessities.”
This case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Dariely Rodriguez and Ajay Saini of the Attorney General's Civil Rights Bureau, which is led by Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke. Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg. First Deputy Attorney General of Affirmative Litigation is Janet Sabel.