Many build­ings pre­date ac­ces­si­bil­ity law

The Buffalo News - - WASHINGTON NEWS -

Oct. 6 that took the life of Nor­man Racki of Buf­falo. Racki died of head in­juries a week af­ter fall­ing down a flight of 10 steps at Amer­i­can Le­gion Post 721 on Cazen­ovia Street in South Buf­falo.

Lead­ers of Post 721 said they have been try­ing for years to get fund­ing for an el­e­va­tor in the build­ing, which is owned by the City of Buf­falo and is more than a cen­tury old. The vet­er­ans post restora­tion group and city of­fi­cials hope to se­cure $250,000 in state fund­ing for the el­e­va­tor and other im­prove­ments at Post 721. But city of­fi­cials told The Buf­falo News there is no guar­an­tee that work on the el­e­va­tor will be­gin this year.

Over the past three years, vol­un­teers from the ar­chi­tects’ in­sti­tute have in­spected 18 posts in Erie County and found that 14 – in­clud­ing Post 721 – are not in com­pli­ance with the fed­eral Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act, said Erie County Clerk Michael “Mickey” Kearns, one of the or­ga­niz­ers of the post restora­tion group.

“Many of th­ese build­ings date back to the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s,” Kearns said. “Many of th­ese posts are not ac­ces­si­ble to older vet­er­ans. Right now, the top pri­or­ity of our or­ga­ni­za­tion is to raise money to help th­ese posts make their build­ings fully ac­ces­si­ble.”

A to­tal of 14 vet­er­ans posts in Buf­falo, Amherst, Lack­awanna, Sloan, Or­chard Park, Eden, West Seneca, Ham­burg, Blas­dell and Cheek­towaga need ren­o­va­tions to make them ac­ces­si­ble to peo­ple who use wheel­chairs or walk­ers, the group said. The es­ti­mated cost for needed ren­o­va­tions ranges from $7,000 to $400,000 per post. The to­tal es­ti­mated ex­pense for mak­ing all 14 posts com­pat­i­ble with fed­eral reg­u­la­tions is just un­der $1.5 mil­lion.

The post restora­tion group es­ti­mated it would cost $400,000 to re­build an old wheelchair ac­cess ramp and make bath­room im­prove­ments at the Newell-Faulkner Amer­i­can Le­gion Post 880 in Eden.

“We’ve been try­ing for more than three years to get the fund­ing,” said James Blidy, com­man­der of the post in Eden. “We have mem­bers who use wheel­chairs, walk­ers and canes, and we’d like to do this for them. We have some mem­bers who can’t get here any­more be­cause of their age.”

Blidy said the build­ing dates back to the 1960s, long be­fore the fed­eral gov­ern­ment passed the dis­abil­i­ties act in 1990.

There are more than 50,000 vet­er­ans in Erie County, and at least 73 vet­er­ans posts, ac­cord­ing to David J. Shenk, direc­tor of the Erie County Vet­er­ans Ser­vice Agency. He said that at least 15 per­cent of those county vet­er­ans served in the Korean War or World War II. Shenk es­ti­mates that at least half of the 50,000 vet­er­ans be­long to some kind of vet­er­ans post.

Mem­bers of the post restora­tion group will meet at 11 a.m. to­day at the Frank L. Gier­lach Amer­i­can Le­gion Post 1320 in Sloan. They will dis­cuss the prob­lems fac­ing lo­cal vet­er­ans posts and un­veil new hand­i­capped-ac­ces­si­ble bath­rooms that were built with a $50,000 do­na­tion from restau­rant owner Rus­sell Sal­va­tore.

“Russ was at the Gier­lach post in Novem­ber to ac­cept an award for his work for vet­er­ans,” said Mike Bil­loni, a mem­ber of the post restora­tion ad­vi­sory group who also does pub­lic re­la­tions work for Sal­va­tore. “He saw th­ese vet­er­ans sit­ting in wheel­chairs, and some­one told Russ that when th­ese men are at an event at the post and need to use the re­stroom, they just have to go home. There were no fa­cil­i­ties there that they could use.”

“That’s ter­ri­ble,” Sal­va­tore said, and ac­cord­ing to both Bil­loni and Kearns, Sal­va­tore agreed that day to do­nate $50,000 to the post for im­prove­ments.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.