February 25th 2016
Schneiderman: All New Yorkers Should Have The Access They Need To Live Full And Independent Lives
NEW YORK Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with Pyramid Management Group LLC, the largest privately owned shopping center owner and developer in the Northeast, to ensure that individuals with disabilities are provided equal access to the indoor and outdoor common areas at its twelve shopping malls in New York.
“Many New Yorkers with disabilities find it difficult to access shopping malls because of architectural barriers,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office has made it a priority to remove these barriers, and to help ensure that all New Yorkers have the access they need to live full and independent lives.”
Pyramid operates twelve large shopping malls across New York State, including Destiny USA in Syracuse, New York, the largest shopping mall in New York. The Attorney General’s investigation of Pyramid was part of an ongoing initiative to ensure accessibility at shopping malls and shopping centers across New York State. In the spring of 2014, the Attorney General entered into agreements with Vornado Realty Corporation and Kimco Realty Corp. Those agreements require over fifty shopping centers to comply with accessibility requirements. More information about them can be found at the link below.
The investigation into Pyramid arose from a complaint filed with the Attorney General about accessibility barriers at Champlain Centre, a large indoor shopping mall managed by Pyramid in Plattsburgh, New York. The Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau’s investigation included assessments of the outdoor areas of several Pyramid-managed shopping malls across the state, and a comprehensive expert survey of Walden Galleria, a Pyramid-managed mall in Cheektowaga, New York. These surveys revealed several persistent accessibility barriers across Pyramid’s portfolio, including improperly sized parking spaces, steep slopes and cross slopes at curb ramps, inadequate signage, moveable objects in the path of travel, and other issues in the public hallways and restrooms at various malls.
Under the agreement, Pyramid agrees to:
- Retain an ADA consultant who will report to the Attorney General’s Office on compliance with the agreement by Pyramid for three years, and who will survey the covered shopping malls to determine necessary remediations;
- Take remedial action to ensure that the common areas of each shopping mall comply with the accessibility standards;
- Develop new policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability and ensuring future compliance with ADA requirements;
- Conduct ADA training for relevant employees, including property managers and maintenance staff;
- Submit any plans for new construction or substantial alterations at its shopping malls for review by the ADA consultant; and
- Post accessibility maps for each shopping mall on its website, as well as instructions on how to obtain complimentary wheelchairs, and any other services available to customers with ambulatory disabilities.
Pyramid must also amend its standard retail lease to require tenants to affirmatively certify that its plans comply with accessibility requirements, and take steps to promote ADA compliance by anchor tenants of its shopping malls. Finally, Pyramid has agreed to resolve the investigation by paying $160,000 to New York State.
The agreement announced today will apply to the following mall locations across New York State:
- Walden Galleria (Cheektowaga, NY)
- Champlain Centre (Plattsburgh, NY)
- The Shops at West Seneca (West Seneca, NY)
- Destiny USA (Syracuse, NY)
- Sangertown Square (New Hartford, NY)
- Aviation Mall (Queensbury, NY)
- Crossgates Mall (Albany, NY)
- Crossgates Commons (Albany, NY)
- Poughkeepsie Galleria (Poughkeepsie, NY)
- Palisades Center (West Nyack, NY)
- Galleria at Crystal Run (Middletown, NY)
- Salmon Run Mall (Watertown, NY)
Todd Vaarwerk, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at Western New York Independent Living, Inc., said, “We applaud Attorney General Schneiderman’s continued commitment to ensuring equal access for all New Yorkers, regardless of their disability status. This agreement will ensure that persons with disabilities are able to access shopping centers to perform essential daily functions, and serves as a reminder to commercial landlords throughout the state that they must comply with their important obligations under the New York State Human Rights Law and the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
John Farley, Accessibility Consultant at the North Country Center for Independence said, “I was upset with the accessibility issues I found in the parking areas of Pyramid’s Champlain Centre Mall, which made it difficult for my wife to access the stores inside. Thankfully, the Attorney General’s Office investigated the complaint I filed, and secured this settlement that will help ensure that Pyramid will take steps to make, not just Champlain Centre, but all of its malls in New York accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Laurel Kelly, Executive Director of the Capital District Center for Independence, said, “The costs of removing barriers to access for New Yorkers with disabilities are miniscule when compared to the benefits of removing such barriers. Not only does equal access for all patrons provide businesses with the added benefit of an expanded customer base, but it also ensures that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers have the ability to live independently. We applaud the Attorney General’s office for its ongoing efforts to ensure greater accessibility in the retail industry.”
This case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Dariely Rodriguez and Ajay Saini, led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg. The Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General’s Office is committed to combating discrimination faced by and promoting accessibility for individuals with disabilities across New York State. To file a complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (212) 416-8250, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.ag.ny.gov/.