Council Passes Bill to Create Accessibility Advisory Board in Shelters

Image credit: New York City Council.

On February 2, 2023, the City Council passed Introduction 92 of 2022.  The new law introduced by Council Member Diana Ayala will establish an advisory board to identify, report on, and advise on issues relating to accessibility at homeless shelters. Mayor Eric Adams signed the bill in Local Law 23 of 2023 on February 21.

The new advisory board will identify issues relating to the needs of shelter clients with disabilities, reasonable accommodation requests, and the physical conditions of shelters. The advisory board will make recommendations to the Mayor, the City Council, and Department of Homeless Services submitted in an annual report.

The advisory board will consist of nine members, including the commissioner of the mayor’s office for people with disabilities; the commissioner of Homeless Services; and seven appointed public members. Four of the public members will be appointed by the mayor and three of the public members will be appointed by the City Council Speaker. The public members will include individuals who live with a disability and currently reside or have previously resided in a shelter and members who specialize in working with individuals with a disability. The advisory board will meet at least quarterly to discuss these issues.

The law was introduced with a series of related laws on March 24, 2022, in response to the ongoing issues and bureaucratic inefficiencies that plague the Department of Homeless Services’ operation of New York City’s homeless shelters. Council Member Ayala stated “these bills will ensure better accessibility requirements and make sure that the city has the tools it needs to provide resources for all New Yorkers.”

The Committee on General Welfare held a public hearing on September 13, 2022 and noted in its Committee Report that it hopes the introduction of this law will pinpoint accessibility issues in the City’s shelter system and rectify these inefficiencies, thus providing greater and more equitable access to the shelter’s clients. While council members and constituents both acknowledged the importance of accessibility within NYC shelters, the Department of Social Services raised issues of potential costs and conflicts with the Butler Consent Decree, which currently guides the standards for accessibility in shelters.

Despite these concerns, Introduction 92 was signed into law as Local Law 23 on February 21, 2023. The newly established Advisory Board must conduct its first meeting and submit its annual report to the mayor and speaker of the council no later than January 31, 2024.

By: Alec Feldman (Alec is a New York Law School student, Class of 2023.)

CC: Committee on General Welfare, Int. 0092-2022, (February 2, 2023).



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