By LOUIS FLORES
Lara Eshkenazi and Jeannette Vargas, federal prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's southern district, have sent a warning letter to the de Blasio administration, pointing out the findings of an investigation of the lack of compliance by the New York City school system with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA.
The release of the findings were accompanied by a statement issued by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
“This morning, my Office issued a letter to the New York City Department of Education setting forth the findings of our investigation into the physical accessibility of New York City public elementary schools. Our investigation revealed that, 25 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the City is still not fully compliant, and children with disabilities and their families are being denied the right to equal access to a public school education. We have asked the City for a response, including an outline and timeline of corrective actions that will remedy this unacceptable state of affairs.”
The fourteen (14) page letter was accompanied by a seventy-three (73) page report of findings. At many schools, some access routes were blocked by walking steps that had no ramps, or changes in elevations were not made wheelchair accessible by the use of beveled edges. Some doors were too narrow for regulations, and some toilet rooms had no accessibility features. The height and functionality of drinking fountains also did not meet regulations.
A request made by Progress Queens to the City Hall press office for comment was not answered.
The last time federal prosecutors investigated violations by New York City government, it took a lawsuit to trigger reforms.
In 2014, the U.S. Attorney's Office issued a stinging report about conditions at Rikers Island that violated the Constitutional rights and civil rights of inmates, particularly of teenagers. When the reforms announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) failed to satisfy U.S. Attorney Bharara, the federal prosecutors' office joined a lawsuit against New York City, eventually resulting in a court-supervised settlement.