YORKTOWN – An advocacy group for the disabled in Westchester County has alleged in a lawsuit that Yorktown Town Hall has violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and that additional parking spaces pledged to bring the building toward compliance were removed.
The nonprofit Westchester Disabled on the Move and its board president, Gail Cartenuto Cohn, of Yorktown Heights, are plaintiffs in the suit filed in federal court in December.
The suit seeks an order that the town “make reasonable modifications to facilities, policies, practices, or procedures to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability.” The suit, which also alleges a violation of the state’s human rights law, also seeks award of damages for emotional distress and to pay for legal fees.
Town Attorney Michael J. McDermott said the town doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
“We have the matter under review,” he said.
People with disabilities do not have access to Town Hall’s third floor, where the finance department and town supervisor’s office are located, the suit alleges, noting that the building has no elevator.
The suit says the building’s main floor, which houses the Town Board meeting room, town clerk’s, assessor’s and receiver of taxes’ offices is accessed by people with disabilities from the front of the building. And the first floor is accessible to the disabled from the rear of Town Hall.
As the suit portrays it, Yonkers-based Westchester Disabled on the Move has “raised concerns about parking accessibility and ADA compliance on various occasions.”
In late 2010, Cartenuto Cohn, who has cerebral palsy, and two other Westchester Disabled on the Move officials met with then-town Supervisor Susan Siegel about accessibility, including for more parking spaces. Three years later, Cartenuto Cohn and an official of the Yonkers-based advocacy organization met with the then-town clerk, parks superintendent and the executive secretary to Town Supervisor Michael Grace.
They reached an agreement in the 2013 meeting, the suit alleges, that two disabled-accessible parking spaces would be added, bringing the total at Town Hall to four. By that November, the two additional spaces were created with signs designating them.
But around March 2014, Melvyn R. Tanzman, Westchester Disabled on the Move’s executive director, learned that the two spaces were removed, the suit says. Tanzman that month wrote to the town clerk expressing concerns.
“Qualified individuals with disabilities are impeded from accessing Town of Yorktown offices, departments and services, including voting; obtaining licenses; attending public meetings, or paying Yorktown fees or taxes in person, because Yorktown’s Town Hall is inaccessible to many individuals with disabilities,” the suit says.
Neither Cartenuto Cohn nor the plaintiffs’ lawyer, William D. Frumkin, could be reached for additional comment.