BROOKLYN — Nigel McLeoud, a Brooklyn paraplegic, takes pride in his ability to be independent.
He has specially designed hand levers allow him to operate his car. His wheelchair, which he calls “my legs,” enable him to travel freely to most places.
Two months ago, he received a new chair. It is specially fitted for his body. He selected the type of seat, the rims for the wheels and the bright blue color.
It cost $8,000 and was paid for by Medicaid.
But his chair is now gone, tragically crushed in a rear loader NYC Sanitation truck. On June 11, McLeoud took his dog for their early morning walk in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. As is their tradition, following his walk he stopped at his car parked on the street and got inside.
There, he checked his phone messages, watched videos, and enjoyed the change of scenery from his small apartment. He left his wheelchair outside his car, next to the rear passenger side door. McLeoud fell asleep and when he awoke at 8 a.m., the chair was gone.
His first thought was that someone stole it. He drove around the area, hoping to spot someone with his chair, but without success.
He remembered a friend of his on block has a surveillance camera outside his house. He checked the video and couldn’t believe what he saw. While he was dozing, a NYC Sanitation truck arrived on the block, the workers collecting the garbage left out on one side of the street.
One of the workers crossed to the opposite side, where he was parked, and took the wheelchair. He dragged it away from the car and back across the street to the truck.
From the video, it does not appear the worker inspected the chair before tossing it into the back of the rear loader where it was then crushed. What a Shame!
Furious, McLeoud went to the nearest sanitation garage a half mile away and showed the video to a supervisor who apologized, but said people throw away wheelchairs all the time.
But this wasn’t an old, worn chair. It was brand new.
PIX11 News sent the video to the NYC Sanitation Department press office. Spokesperson Joshua Goodman sent us this statement.
“In the surveillance video, it appears that the wheelchair was left out for collection. Unfortunately, New Yorkers discard valuable items on a daily basis, and it would be impossible — and against DSNY policy — for Sanitation Workers to evaluate every piece of refuse.”
Without his chair, McLeoud has been struggling to maintain his normal routine. He is now dependent on people like his brother to literally carry him from his house to his car and then from his car to wherever he is going.
“I really need my chair. Just as fast as they took it, I need it. That’s a need, not a want.”
He has sent a damage claim form to the NYC Comptroller’s office, hoping it will result in him getting a new chair. We will be following this story.
If you’ve got a story you want Arnold Diaz to investigate, email him at Arnold.Diaz@pix11.com