Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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NY1 For You: Lengthy Fight Continues To Get Disabled Lift Working At Harlem Senior Center

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An nearly decade-long struggle to get a disabled lift working has some Harlem senior citizens exhausted, fighting for equal access. NY1's Susan Jhun filed the following report.

Using the front entrance to the Central Harlem Senior Citizen Center is impossible for many disabled seniors.

"I can't come up the stairs," says one resident. "I have to go around to the back in order to get into the building because I need a lift to take this up."

"You can't get to the first floor without going up steps," says Eugene M. Brown of the Central Harlem Senior Citizen Center. "There is no possible way if you're in a wheelchair to get upstairs without going around to the back door."

It's a dilemma that seniors have faced at the center for the past several years. NY1 for You first brought their story to viewers three years ago, when the disabled lift at the main entrance was broken, leaving one exterior staircase and six interior stairs to climb.

At the time, NY1 for You reached out to Catholic Charities, the owner of the building, and the lift was repaired. Now, though, it's broken again, putting seniors back at square one.

"It's at the point where it can't be repaired," says Rodney Beckford, director of the Joseph Kennedy Center.
For their part, Catholic Charities has made improvements, including removing a fence so that Access-a-Ride can drop off riders at the back door.

"We've made a great deal of provisions for Access-a-Rides and other vehicles that can enter on street level in the rear of the building," Beckford says.

However, those walking find the route to the back door's disabled entrance inconvenient as best.

NY1 for You contacted the Department of Aging, which would provide the funding to the build a disabled ramp. A spokesman said that the agency is aware of the situation and is working with the landlord to address the issue as quickly as possible. He did not, however, have a time frame as to when the ramp would be built.

That's not encouraging for disabled seniors, who say they simply want to have the equal access provided to them under the law.

NY1 for You will keep you updated.

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