Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column
Senior citizen programs are held at Clinton G. Martin Park in New Hyde Park, in a building where the doorway doesn't have an automatic opener. That presents a barrier to anyone who has a disability, so getting into the building requires two people. Making matters worse: The entry has a vestibule, so you have to go through two sets of doors.
-- Michael Vezzi, Mineola
The facility Vezzi mentioned belongs to North Hempstead, a town that through its Project Independence program aims to be easy to use for residents who, to use a popular phrase, want to age in place.
That's what makes the absence of an accessible entrance at a facility used by so many senior citizens hard to understand.
Vezzi told us he has attended events there and witnessed residents who need help gaining entry. He noted that the building contains a Project Independence office, where staff have a view of the driveway so they can see when buses carrying seniors arrive. When that happens, someone heads to the doorway to assist.
But individuals arriving from the parking lot, which is not visible from the windows, are not so easily seen. And the arrangement doesn't address one of the stated intents of the Americans With Disabilities Act: the removal of barriers, both societal and institutional, that interfere with the right "to fully participate in all aspects of society."
Making that happen isn't always easy. And in this case, the building may have an excuse: It was constructed in 1989, before the ADA was enacted. Changes to meet the act's guidelines typically aren't required until other work is done to a building.
Vezzi has been doing his homework: He carries a bound copy of the ADA accessibility guidelines as well as a measuring stick that he used to demonstrate where an automatic-door button could be installed. And he cited Mineola's experience installing automatic openers at its Village Hall/Community Center a few years ago as evidence of what is possible.
Mona Russo, also of Mineola, has held the door open for residents needing assistance, and brought the matter to the attention of an advisory board for the town's Project Independence. When no action was taken, she and Vezzi wrote to Watchdog.
"Are you taking care of seniors if you're not providing them access to the facilities?" Russo asked when we spoke. "I think not . . . People have to be able to come in [and] to get out if they have a wheelchair."
She said North Hempstead "is a wonderful place to live, but they're not doing their due diligence in a small matter."
We can report that the town is looking into the situation.
"The town is committed to making its facilities easily accessible for seniors and all residents," town spokesman Ryan Mulholland said. "We are currently investigating any accessibility issues at the building at Clinton G. Martin Park and will work to identify measures to correct them."
So progress, but not a promise. We will stay tuned.
I travel daily on Jerusalem Avenue in Hempstead. Going west, there's a left-turn lane but no left-turn signal at the intersection with Henry Street. Making that turn can require waiting through multiple light changes. I truly believe a left-turn signal is needed on this very busy corner.
-- Rose Giannetta, Rockville Centre
We can't guarantee such a signal will arrive, but Nassau County has agreed to study the intersection to determine if a one is warranted.
"Traffic engineers will analyze all movement at the intersection including traffic counts, pedestrian activity, available traffic patterns and accident data," said Nassau County Department of Public Works spokesman Michael Martino. He could not offer a time frame for the study, only that "it will be conducted before the end of the year."
The last complaint the county received about the intersection's left-turn situation was in 2001, Martino said.
Giannetta contacted us after sending an email about her concerns to the state Department of Transportation and getting no response. When we contacted the department, we learned that the intersection falls under the jurisdiction of Nassau County.
Giannetta expressed hope that a turn signal would be added. "I worked late last night and had to wait two lights to make the turn," she said in an email last month.
Nassau residents with traffic signal concerns on county roads can call 516-572-0465.
Michael R. Ebert