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DOJ says NYC “Not Ready” to Protect Disabled in Disasters

May 14, 2013

NEW YORK - New Yorkers with disabilities have cause for concern when it comes to possible future disasters and terrorism events, because the U.S. Justice Department says the city is in violation of federal law in failing to prepare. In a statement filed in the Southern District of New York, the Department declared that New York City has neglected to plan for the needs of New Yorkers with disabilities. New York officials say it isn't so.

Susan Dooha, executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York, said the situation isn't good.

"If you're a person with a disability in the city of New York, the city has no plan for you," as she put it. "It's important because we do know that if you don't have a plan, you don't have a chance."

The legal department for the city of New York responded by saying the allegations are not true and that the city has a robust outreach program.

Dooha however said the Justice Department backs up what local advocates for people with disabilities have been saying for many years: that New York is not ready for the next natural disaster such as Superstorm Sandy, or terrorist acts like the Boston bombings.

"There are lots of emergencies that have no notice, related to the subways or to dense highly-populated areas or big events, and we need emergency plans that deal with all of these contingencies," she said.

The list of areas where the city is falling short in terms of disaster planning is a long one, Dooha said.

"Transportation, communication, sheltering, housing, and all of the other aspects of emergency planning," are wanting, she charged.

It's now up to Federal Judge Jesse Furman to decide whether New York has complied with federal law in its disaster and terrorism planning for people with disabilities. The judge is expected to rule by this summer.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY