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Groups Find More "Systematic" NYC Disaster Planning Failure for Sandy

PHOTO: A recent lawsuit claims New York City systematically fails to disaster plan for 900-thousand New Yorkers with disabilities.
PHOTO: A recent lawsuit claims New York City systematically fails to disaster plan for 900-thousand New Yorkers with disabilities.
November 12, 2012

NEW YORK - New York City systematically fails to disaster plan for 900,000 New Yorkers with disabilities. That is the charge in a federal lawsuit that has now been granted class-action status.

Susan Dooha, executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled - New York, says the city has been on notice since the 9/11 attacks that its disaster planning does not work for nearly 1 million New Yorkers with disabilities. Once again, during Superstorm Sandy, many New Yorkers with disabilities had no safe way to evacuate, she says, so they just stayed put.

"Many are still trapped in high-rise public housing towers and can't come down, are without insulin, are not able to get out for dialysis, have urgent medical needs."

The lawsuit claims the city fails to provide adequate evacuation, shelter and power-outage planning for New Yorkers with disabilities. A city attorney labeled the charges "patently false," adding that the city's disaster plan takes into account the needs of all New Yorkers.

Reginald Ragland is a 59-year-old Queens resident who can testify first-hand to one of the allegations in the lawsuit. During Sandy, the Department of Emergency Preparedness again failed to give him and other New Yorkers with disabilities clear guidance on how to evacuate safely, he says.

"It was pretty hard when the storm hit; I didn't know where to go. If I could walk it wouldn't be a big problem, but I can't walk. I'm disabled, and it was really hectic for me to find out where to go."

Ragland is currently housed in a Queens nursing home without his powered wheelchair, awaiting word that power is back on so he can finally return home.

Dooha says city officials seem to think once they evacuate institutions such as nursing homes, their mission is accomplished. That fails to disaster-plan for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers with disabilities who now live independently, she says.

"The biggest blind spot is that the city somehow thinks all people with disabilities live in institutions or with family members who are taking care of them. The reality is very, very different than that."

The case is set to go to trial Dec. 10.


Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY