Gathered at the foot of steep steps leading into New York City's only post office that is open to the public 24 hours-a-day, seven-day-a-week, State Senator Thomas K. Duane (D, WFP-Manhattan), the Disabled Riders Coalition, disabled activist Norma Hart, and other advocates for the disabled demanded that the United States Postal Service (USPS) provide full weekend access to the building for people in wheelchairs and otherwise mobility-impaired individuals, just as it does for other customers.
Presently the James A. Farley Post Office's sole ramp-accessible entrance, which is located at the building's Ninth Avenue annex, has limited weekend hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. When the entrance is closed, disabled customers are forced to forgo service, or, alternatively, rely upon USPS employees to act as couriers -- completing transactions for them while they wait outside at the base of the stairs, regardless of weather conditions.
"It is outrageous that despite the Americans with Disabilities Act and the fact that the USPS is a government agency, disabled customers are still treated as second class citizens," said Senator Duane, who, along with Congress Member Jerrold Nadler, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and New York State Assembly Members Richard Gottfried and Micah Kellner, sent a letter to USPS Postmaster General John Potter protesting the policy. Regardless of whether it fulfills the letter of the ADA," Duane added, "having to wait on the sidewalk while postal employees execute their transactions inside effectively segregates and demeans customers with disabilities. Anything less than an accessible entrance that is open during all operating hours is unacceptable."
"It is past time that the Postal Service step up to the plate and make this facility truly accessible to all," stated Assembly Member Kellner, who noted that even the limited weekend hours are a new development, spurred by an August 13, 2007 New York Post story exposing the fact that the annex was not open on weekends. "The federal government should stop putting band-aids on a bad situation and instead work to cure the situation."
"It is simply shameful that in this day and age a branch of the federal government would force anyone to use a segregated facility that doesn't offer equivalent service," added Michael A. Harris, Executive Director of the Disabled Riders Coalition, who has been a leading force on this issue. "People with disabilities pay the same taxes as everyone else and should be entitled to utilize the same services as everyone else. Sadly that is not the case here and that needs to change today."
Norma Hart, a 77-year-old disabled woman who brought Farley Post Office's lack of equal access for disabled customers to light by telling her story to the New York Post, also spoke out against the USPS's half-measures towards accessibility. Other organizations represented at the press conference included the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York, Disabled in Action, Disability Network of New York City, Disabled Riders Coalition, 504 Democratic Club, Chelsea Reform Democratic Club Community Free Democrats and Village Independent Democrats.