Hotel Agrees to Make Changes to Aid the Disabled
By Andy Newman, The New York Times, September 15, 2011
The Gramercy Park Hotel has agreed to make changes throughout the building to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. The swank Gramercy Park Hotel prides itself on its freewheeling, creative design. “Madly eclectic and entirely unpredictable,” the hotel’s Web site boasts about its rooms, no two of which are laid out alike.
A certain degree of uniformity, however, is required by the Americans With Disabilities Act. And now, after an investigation and a complaint by the government, the hotel has agreed to makes its rooms and common spaces a little more standard to comply with the act, federal prosecutors announced on Thursday.
The hotel will also make one of its penthouse suites, which rent for $5,000 a night, feature original Stanford White furnishings and are described on the hotel’s Web site as “like entering a three-dimensional painting,” fully accessible to handicapped guests.
The government’s intervention began after a “profoundly deaf” guest complained that he was denied a Telephone Device for the Deaf when he visited the hotel in 1996 and 2004, and a subsequent investigation turned up violations of access requirements all over the hotel, federal prosecutors said.
A $200 million renovation completed in 2006, designed by the artist Julian Schnabel, was supposed to bring the hotel into full compliance, but instead it threw up new barriers to access, the government said.
Under the terms of a consent decree approved on Wednesday by a federal judge, the hotel, overlooking Gramercy Park at the foot of Lexington Avenue, has agreed to make a host of changes in at least 12 of its 185 rooms, including:
Providing visual alarms and a Telephone Device for the Deaf;
Providing room number signs with a non-glare finish;
Ensuring that thermostats are no higher than 54 inches off the floor;
Replacing hardware on armoire doors with hardware that does not require tight pinching to operate;
Providing at least 56 inches of clear space around toilets, as well as bathroom thresholds no higher than half an inch;
The hotel also agreed to change signs in common spaces and install a phone compatible with hearing aids in the lobby.
The hotel also agreed to pay $20,000 to the deaf customer and $10,000 to the government.
“New York City hosts millions of visitors each year, and it is essential that our hotels are open and accessible to all,” Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in New York, said in a statement. The settlement was reported Wednesday by Curbed.
The hotel’s vice president for operations, Patrick Hall, said in a statement: “When these concerns were brought to us by the Department of Justice, although we were not in complete agreement as to all of them, Gramercy Park Hotel addressed them and reached a mutual agreement with the Department of Justice on a resolution. As always, we remain committed to providing every guest with an experience of the highest caliber and are in the midst of executing several enhancements to achieve this, including projects that will ultimately increase handicap accessibility.”
– Thanks to NVRC, Fairfax (09/17/11)