NYCs Hunters Point Library designer faces $40M lawsuit over handicapped access | World News - Hindustan Times
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NYC sues architect of Hunters Point Library for $40M over handicapped access failure

May 21, 2023 08:22 AM IST

NYC sues architect of Hunters Point Library for ADA noncompliance, seeking $40M in damages. Controversy over accessibility reignites.

A major legal battle is brewing in New York City as the designer of the prestigious Hunters Point Library in Long Island City is being sued for allegedly failing to provide handicapped access. City lawyers filed a lawsuit against architect Steven Holl and his firm in Manhattan Supreme Court, seeking a staggering $40 million in damages for noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) during the library's design. The lawsuit has brought attention to the library's construction flaws and the ongoing controversy surrounding its lack of accessibility.

Controversy erupts as NYC sues architect Steven Holl for $40M over lack of handicap access in Hunters Point Library, violating ADA. (Wikimedia Commons)
Controversy erupts as NYC sues architect Steven Holl for $40M over lack of handicap access in Hunters Point Library, violating ADA. (Wikimedia Commons)

Hunters Point Library, a 22,000-square-foot architectural marvel, finally opened its doors in September 2019 after a decade of project delays. The stunning structure garnered praise for its panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline and its unique design featuring an aluminum-painted concrete facade with sculpted cuts. However, the joyous opening was quickly marred by accusations that the library violated ADA and other laws by not providing wheelchair accessibility.

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Critics argue that the library's construction flaws are evident throughout the building. The three-tiered fiction section, a rooftop garden, and a reading space on the children's floor are all inaccessible to individuals who use wheelchairs due to the lack of elevator access. As a temporary solution, books from the inaccessible tiers were relocated to tables near the elevators. The library has become the subject of a federal probe and a separate federal lawsuit, both accusing the city of disability discrimination. These legal actions remain pending.

The recent lawsuit filed against Steven Holl Architects highlights the city's frustration and seeks to hold the architect accountable for the alleged breach of contract and professional malpractice. The lawsuit claims that significant elements of the library's design are inaccessible to persons with disabilities and require remediation or reconstruction. The city asserts that the 2010 contract between the city's Department of Design and Construction and Steven Holl Architects explicitly stated that the facility would be ADA-compliant.

According to the lawsuit, not only is the central staircase inaccessible, but the second-floor children's area, public rooftop terrace, and even the library's bathrooms do not meet the requirements for wheelchair maneuverability. The city is demanding damages to cover the costs of remediation, including design, engineering, and construction. They argue that the defendant's failure to design in compliance with applicable laws and regulations constitutes a breach of contract and a violation of their professional obligations.

Steven Holl Architects has not responded to requests for comment, but in a statement to Crain's New York, a spokesperson indicated that the firm would vigorously defend against the claims. The architect's firm previously denied any wrongdoing.

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Long Island City community leader Mark Christie, who campaigned for the new library branch for years, expressed his frustration with the project's management. Christie claimed to have warned multiple city agencies, elected officials, and former Queens Public Library executives about the design's noncompliance with ADA regulations before construction began in 2015. His concerns were dismissed, and he was met with resistance and indifference.

As the legal battle unfolds, the fate of Hunters Point Library hangs in the balance. The lawsuit's outcome could have significant implications not only for the architect and the city but also for the broader conversation surrounding accessibility and inclusion in public infrastructure projects.

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