The Committee Files Lawsuit against New York Central Park Restaurant for Refusing to Make Restaurant Wheelchair Accessible

NEW YORK, NY– The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs announced today that it has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Rosemary Ciotti against New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the city of New York, and Central Park Boathouse LLC for failing to make the entrances of the Loeb Boathouse restaurant accessible to wheelchair users, despite the Committee’s several attempts to alert them of the problem.

The complaint, filed on behalf of Rosemary Ciotti in the Southern District of New York, alleges that Defendants fail to comply with Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law by not requiring Loeb Boathouse to remove architectural barriers and modify its practices, policies, and procedures.Loeb

Rosemary Ciotti, who uses a wheelchair, first visited Loeb Boathouse restaurant in 2014. Ms. Ciotti was meeting her family there for a meal. Upon arriving, Ms. Ciotti was not able to get past the bar into the dining room or deck because of steps leading down to both areas. She was forced to remain outside and asked a staff member about accessible entrances to these areas. The staff member informed her that there were no accessible entrances. Ms. Ciotti’s husband then went inside the restaurant to confirm and received the same response.

After requiring assistance to enter the Restaurant, Ms. Ciotti then attempted to go onto the outside deck to be seated, but found no accessible route to the restaurant’s deck. Despite the Committee’s attempts to notify the restaurant several times about the accessibility barriers, no changes were made. In fact, in August 2015, Ms. Ciotti returned to the Restaurant and found neither remediation nor signs of intent to remediate adequately any of the issues she had described. In spite of the continuing inaccessibility of its amenities, the Restaurant’s web site declares, “The restaurant is handicap accessible.

Matthew Handley, Director of Litigation at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, stated “Not only is Ms. Ciotti’s treatment in direct violation of federal and state disability laws, but her treatment by the Restaurant as a second-class citizen is unacceptable. She suffered great humiliation and frustration in her struggle to enter the facility and enjoy a relaxing meal with her family, a luxury to which she was entitled as a paying customer along with the general public. Ignoring persons with disabilities and denying them access to places of public accommodation will not be tolerated.”

Among other remedies, the lawsuit seeks injunctive relief whereby defendants would modify their policies, practices, and procedures to comply with the ADA and New York state and city human rights laws, and to remedy non-compliant architectural barriers at the Restaurant. The lawsuit also seeks compensatory damages for Ms. Ciotti under the New York state and city human rights laws.

Copies of the complaint are available online here.

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