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Park that honors F.D.R., who used a wheelchair, sued for not being wheelchair accessible

Plaintiff Edith Prentiss at the Four Freedoms Park. (Joe Rappaport)

Plaintiff Edith Prentiss at the Four Freedoms Park. (Joe Rappaport)

ROOSEVELT ISLAND, NY — President Franklin D. Roosevelt wouldn’t have been able to fully access a park on Roosevelt Island named in his honor: the park begins and ends with stairs.

Nonprofit Disability Rights Advocates filed a class action lawsuit Thursday against the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy. The complaint says Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park is in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

FDR, who suffered from polio, used a wheelchair. Plaintiff and wheelchair-user Phil Beder considers himself an FDR bugg.

“It’s patently ironic that a Memorial built in honor of him is rife with barriers for wheelchair users,” Beder said. “Frankly, it makes me both mad and sad.”

While portions of the park are accessible with a wheelchair, other sections, including the monument itself, are only reachable via stairs. Plaintiffs also say the gift shop is inaccessible.

“I’ve heard that those who run the park say that we can just enjoy the view afforded by the sunken terrace from elsewhere,” wheelchair-user Edith Prentiss said. “I find that offensive in the ‘back of the bus’ sort of way. I feel like they’ve prioritized their own aesthetics over our right to visit the Memorial, and are now waving away our concerns by saying: ‘What you got is good enough anyway.’ It’s not.”

PIX11 has reached out to the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy for comment.