Rye merchants are being sued on a regular basis for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Luigi Girotto, who was injured in a skiing accident and is now wheelchair bound, is suing the businesses for not being handicap accessible.
By Bill Lawyer
Rye merchants are being sued on a regular basis for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Luigi Girotto, who was injured in a skiing accident and is now wheelchair bound, is suing the businesses for not being handicap accessible. Among his targets are Arcade Booksellers, Woodrow Jewelers, Poppy’s, Upper Crust Bagel, Central Barber Shop, and many more. The individual has already successfully sued several downtown businesses.
As Joseph Mancuso, owner of Upper Crust Bagel, remarked: “Mr. Girotto knows that many of us have not undergone renovations and are trying to preserve historic buildings, in accordance with the City of Rye.”
The outbreak of lawsuits has gathered attention beyond Rye. An extensive article in the New York Times on April 17 provided evidence that suits are being filed against businesses throughout New York State. About two weeks after the Times article, Fox 5 TV news came to Rye to do a story on the suits, which put a spotlight on what some property owners and tenants felt was a “grossly unfair” approach to solving handicapped accessibilities.
Rye merchants and property owners have held two meetings recently, under the auspices of the Rye Chamber of Commerce, to discuss the matter.
Jonathan Kraut, a local attorney, spoke to the Chamber and explained that the purpose of the ADA of 1990 was to achieve equal opportunities for people with disabilities, but not to the extent of putting merchants out of business. He said that the legislation provides for reasonable approaches to the provision of accessibility for the handicapped.
“I’m doing everything I can,” said one owner, who noted that, “these buildings were built back in the 20s, and it’s impossible to avoid stairs in some cases.”
What makes the lawsuits even more disturbing for merchants is the amount being sought by Girotto and his attorney. “On top of damages, “says Upper Crust’s Mancuso, “Girotto is demanding the merchants pay all his attorney’s costs, fees, and expenses.” Patrick Corcoran, owner of Arcade Booksellers, told the paper, “This is out and out harassment.”