Judge Rules That The City Has No Adequate Plan For Evacuating Vulnerable If Disaster Strikes

Lady Justice, atop the Fontaine de la Justice in Cudrefin, Switzerland. Source: Wikimedia
Lady Justice, atop the Fontaine de la Justice in Cudrefin, Switzerland. Source: Wikimedia

A federal judge has come down hard on the outgoing Bloomberg administration, ruling that the city has inadequate plans for helping the disabled evacuate should a major disaster like Superstorm Sandy strike the city again. WNYC is reporting that Judge Jesse Furman’s ruling came from a lawsuit waged by the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled and the Center for Independence of the Disabled who argued that the city violated the Americans with Disability Act.

According to Furman, the city’s plans for the disabled in case of a major emergency were insufficient.

“Most significantly, the city’s plans are inadequate to ensure that people with disabilities are able to evacuate before or during an emergency; they fail to provide sufficiently accessible shelters; and they do not sufficiently inform people with disabilities of the availability and location of accessible emergency services,” Furman wrote in his ruling.

WNYC listed three crucial foundations of the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled’s lawsuit that Furman agreed with:

  • Many of the evacuation shelters were inaccessible to people in wheelchairs;
  • There was inadequate transportation to help disabled people evacuate, especially from high-rises;
  • Emergency officials had no plan to find and rescue those trapped after an emergency.

While Furman came down hard on the Bloomberg administration as far as the disabled go, he did praise them for doing an otherwise “outstanding” job when it came to preparing for future catastrophes.

The Bloomberg administration tried to hold the ruling in a positive light in a statement:

“While we are disappointed with the Court’s conclusions, we are gratified it recognized that the City’s extensive planning is impressive, and the efforts and valor of those responding to emergencies have been ‘extraordinary.’ Planning for the needs of people with disabilities has always been and remains a priority for the City. We are continuing to review this decision and assess our next steps.”

Here’s hoping that city administrators take this ruling seriously and find a way to adequately accommodate the city’s disabled should another disaster strike.

Are you disabled or have disabled family or friends that were in the evacuation zone during Superstorm Sandy? What was your experience like?

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