QUEENS (PIX11) – Gerald Grant counts himself among the some nine hundred thousand New Yorkers who are disabled.
“My hip was all out of whack, and I couldn’t come down those stairs,” said Gerald.
His membership in that demographic also grants him another status: forgotten.
That’s the finding a federal judge, who ruled Thursday New York City has failed to address the needs of disabled residents during an emergency.
Gerald lives on the twenty-first floor of an apartment tower at 711 Seagirt Avenue in Far Rockaway filled with disabled tenants.
He remembers what it was like here last year, during hurricane Sandy.
PIX11 was also here, speaking to residents, and amateur filmmaker Kate Blanding, who captured the difficulties tenants experienced here in the days after the super storm.
“There was hot food in the lobby, even that. How can you make twenty floors down, and then go back up with that hot food if you’re eighty years old,” said Balandina.
Building management refused to let us talk to Gerald in the lobby where it was warm – to get his reaction to the court decision.
So the disabled veteran kindly braved the cold night air, and – using his walker, spoke to us from the curb – on public property.
“Ok. When it did come I live on the twenty first floor. And I was unable to come down those stairs, because I’m a disabled veteran. The people on the twenty-first floor, they just pulled together, lit candles in the hallway. We fed each other. We cooked. We tried to do what we could do,” said Gerald.
Judge Jesse Furman’s decision was blunt. It reads in part, “The city`s plans are inadequate to ensure that people with disabilities are able to evacuate before or during an emergency; they fail to provide sufficiently accessible shelters; and they do not sufficiently inform people with disabilities of the availability of emergency services.’
Judge Furman did commend the city for its overall preparedness efforts, and left the process of coming up with remedies to help the disabled population to the experts.
City Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo response reads in part, “Planning for the needs of people with disabilities has always been and remains a priority for the City. We are continuing to review this decision and assess our next steps.”
A spokesperson for Mayor Elect Bill DeBlasio says he is also reviewing the court decision.
Meantime, Gerald Grant says he wants details.
“Are they gonna come up with contingencies that will curtail that for the next time? You know, we already went through that. People just manned up and did what they had to do, disabled or not. But what are they gonna do about it just in case another sandy comes along?” said Gerald.