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Storm Plans for Disabled Inadequate, U.S. Says

Source: NY Times


Posted on 13 May 2013 by Neilson

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Disaster planning for disabledNew York City is in violation of federal law because its emergency management plans ''do not adequately protect the rights of individuals with disabilities,'' federal authorities said in a court filing on Friday.

The city failed to address their needs in relation to ''shelters, transportation and evacuation, and emergency-related communications,'' the government said in a 31-page document provided to a judge in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

The judge, Jesse M. Furman, has been overseeing a class-action lawsuit that was filed in 2011 after Tropical Storm Irene. The suit said that the city had failed to address the needs of its disabled population in emergency and disaster planning, and sought remedial action. The case was tried before Judge Furman in March, and he asked the parties to file papers before he ruled.

The office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, was not involved in the case but made its views known in a statement of interest. It noted that the city's population of disabled people was estimated at 900,0000, and that at least 118,000 of them lived within Zone A, which was subject to a mandatory evacuation order during Hurricane Sandy last year.

The city has to ensure that ''their safety and well-being are safeguarded to the same extent as the rest of the city's residents,'' Mr. Bharara's office wrote.

The city's Law Department said on Friday that it strongly disagreed with the federal government's position, and that the city had ''a robust and nationally recognized outreach program and engaged in an aggressive and coordinated response during Hurricane Sandy to meet the needs of and assist disabled New Yorkers.'' The government's decision ''to ignore the city's effort and comprehensive planning is troubling,'' the department added.

Shawna L. Parks, a lawyer with Disability Rights Advocates, which is representing the plaintiffs, said she welcomed the federal government's filing.


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