Testimony of BCID’s Jessica De La Rosa, Systems Advocate, at Landmarks Preservation Commission on proposed steps reconstruction and new exterior lift at City Hall

March 3, 2020

Good morning. My name is Jessica De La Rosa. I am the systems advocate of the Brooklyn Center for the Independence of the Disabled (BCID). We advocate and provide services to people with disabilities, and our mission is to promote the independence of all New Yorkers with disabilities.

We’re pleased to be here to support plans to return to install a new lift to get into the building and a new ramp to get up and from the upper plaza. These are long overdue improvements, and they are vital to the full participation of our community in New York City’s civic life.

At the same time, we urge you to make other changes to make the plaza safer and more accessible for people who use wheelchairs or who are blind or have limited sight. We discuss these below.

This is an old building, built more than two centuries ago. BCID and other colleagues in the community have haunted its portico and its hallways for years. We have participated in countless news conferences. We’ve testified in favor of inclusion, whether it’s making taxis wheelchair-accessible, forcing the MTA to put in elevators at subway stations, or requiring the availability of plastic straws to those in our community who need them if they’re going to dine out independently. We’ve met with council presidents and mayoral appointees.

And if we can’t get into the building easily, or have to take a back door, then what does that say? Does it say that people who use wheelchairs or walkers are less important than other people? Does it say that we’re an afterthought, or an annoyance?

When I look at City Hall, when I look at the lift, I don’t see something that’s out of place with an historic building. I see instead something that proclaims: This city is for everyone. We want, and expect you, to participate in the political and civic life of our town. We’re not sending you to the basement. Come through the front door like everybody else.

There is more work to do at City Hall to make the plaza safer and more accessible. Seven disability groups, including BCID, wrote Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker almost exactly a year ago about the dangerous conditions that make it impossible to tell where the upper plaza ends and the lower plaza begins. Two members of our community have been injured because they went over the impossible-to-see steps, as recounted in the attached letter. We suggest appropriate, landmark-sensitive solutions to this problem. It’s time to fix this, and we urge you to take action to do so as a part of this project. Thank you. 

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