HRS_Purcell_Wheelchair Access

HRS_Purcell_Wheelchair Access

MWC
Submitted by Amanda Purcell Columbia-Greene Media on Wed, 09/05/2018 - 10:12 pm

City resident calls for better sidewalks

HUDSON — When she was in her 20s, Jacquie Peters would spend her days walking up and down the streets of the city as a meter maid.

But since her stroke three years ago, she has been confined to a wheelchair. And moving up and down the city’s streets has become more difficult for Peters, now 49.

Her situation is made worse by uneven sidewalks, potholes and non-level curb ramps, she said.

So she is challenging city officials, businesses and property owners to take a second look — below their feet.

“I never noticed the sidewalks when I was a meter maid,” Peters said. “I think, for most people, they wouldn’t notice it unless they were in a wheelchair.”

Peters posted a video to her Facebook page showing how difficult it is to traverse the streets with a wheelchair pushed from behind by an aide. She was accompanied by 2nd Ward Alderwoman Tiffany Garriga and 5th Ward Alderman Dominic Merante.

Peters says the wheel has popped off of her wheelchair at several bumps and potholes, especially near Third Street and on Warren Street between Third and Fourth streets.

“Thank God a very nice couple stopped that was able to help my aide as she was not able to lift up the chair,” Peters said. “But some people may not have an aide to help. And it’s not just about people with disabilities. It also affects parents with strollers.”

At the corner of Prison Alley and North First Street, which is outside her home at Providence Hall at 119 Columbia St. and on the way to Warren Street, there is no curb ramp.

“It’s very dangerous for my aide,” Peters said. “She has to lift me up off the sidewalk and onto the street.”

Not looking for sympathy

Peters said she is not looking for sympathy, but wants city officials and motorists to be aware.

“Anyone who knows me knows I am a very independent individual,” she said. “I like to do my own things at my own time and my own pace. With being confined to a wheelchair now I have lost all my self-dignity and independence. I am not complaining, I just want people to be more aware. Take five minutes and walk around your block. Look around.”

Sidewalks in the city of Hudson are the responsibility of the property owner, according to city code. The property owner has a responsibility to repair the sidewalks if there are safety concerns within a certain time frame or they could be cited or fined by code enforcement.

Meanwhile, the city is responsible for maintaining corner curb cuts and crosswalks.

Officials said this is not a new issue. Pedestrians have been complaining about the sidewalks for years.

The advocacy organization Disability Rights New York in 2017 found that 74 percent of 156 city, town and village governments in the state, including Hudson, were out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Merante called on the city in August 2017 to appoint an American with Disabilities Act coordinator to work out the administrative requirements of ADA compliance and to respond to public complaints.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, public entities with 50 or more workers must designate one employee to coordinate ADA compliance.

The city has not appointed anyone to the position.

Merante called for ADA-compliant portable toilets that were installed this year after officials determined there were no handicapped-accessible bathrooms at Oakdale Beach House.

But other changes are on the way.

Access and compliance

The $10 million grant requested from the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative includes $1.1 million to design and create improvements at Promenade Hill Park, which includes an ADA-cleared access ramp — something that the city has been working on for several years.

The city is also looking into the possibility of housing its municipal offices at the shuttered John L. Edwards Primary School, which is accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Several city and county offices, including City Hall and Code Enforcement, are not accessible to those with disabilities.

Common Council President Thomas DePietro recently announced that a subcommittee would be formed to look into improving the city’s streets under the state’s Complete Streets program in conjunction with the Department of Public Works Committee.

“A complete street is a roadway planned and designed to consider the safe, convenient access and mobility of all roadway users of all ages and abilities,” according to the state Department of Transportation website. “This includes pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation riders and motorists; it includes children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.”

Merante is leading the committee with city resident Peter Spear, who published a video about pedestrian safety on the city’s streets on YouTube.

To accommodate people with mobile disabilities, the Common Council is moving its meetings and committee meetings to other locations for the rest of 2018.

The Common Council’s informal, formal and Finance Committee meetings will be held at the Hudson Area Library located at 51 North 5th St.

Fire and police committee meetings on Sept. 24 and the DPW and the Parks Committee meeting on Sept. 19 will be held at the Hudson Fire Department’s Central Station at 77 N. Seventh St.

“When it comes to access for people with disabilities to the city we have a long way to go,” Merante said. “We need to formulate plans for addressing issues in the short-term and solutions for the long-term. I think this council has been very receptive and moving this forward than some of the past councils.”