To Help Open Doors

Village will issue disability reminders to businesses

    Parking, the concerns of the East Hampton Town and Village Disabilities Advisory Board, and the health of the groundwater were all discussed at the East Hampton Village Board work session last Thursday, along with a law that would make creating disabled access a little easier on the wallet.
    “My wife was hit by a car 29 years ago,” Gerry Mooney, a member of the disabilities advisory group, told the village board. “It sensitized me to an issue that I had no knowledge of.” Mr. Mooney, along with Glenn Hall, the chairman of the disabilities advisory board, commended the village for its implementation and enforcement of the American with Disabilities Act laws, but hoped that actions would be taken to remind businesses in the village that compliance with the law is not a choice, but a requirement.
    “We want to sensitize people in the village, especially store owners,” Mr. Mooney said. “There are people out there, lots of independent, single, disabled people, who would love to shop and use their services but who can’t gain access.”
    In particular, the group was seeking additional curb cuts and loading zones in the interest of removing barriers. “People want to do the right thing,” Mr. Mooney continued. “But sometimes you have to push them a little, to remind them.”
    Mr. Hall congratulated East Hampton for being “possibly the only town and village with the A.D.A. requirements built into the code.” However, he echoed Mr. Mooney’s thoughts: “Sometimes it takes a certain amount of pressure to get people into compliance.”
    All renovation and new construction must comply with the A.D.A. requirements, and grandfathered properties must comply if it’s “readily achievable.”
    “You’ve got to put up a sign,” Mr. Hall said. “If you’ve got a step, and it’s not going to break the bank, adding a ramp would work, putting grab rails in the bathrooms — that’s all readily achievable,” he said.
    The board agreed to issue a massive notification to all village businesses with a reminder of the disability requirements. “We’re doing it for everybody. It’s good business,” Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said.
    Later in the meeting, the board voted to hold public hearings on two local laws — one that would exempt all modifications designed to improve handicap-accessibility from building permit fees and the other to exempt those improvements from setback and coverage restrictions.
    Kevin McAllister of the Peconic Baykeeper, a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to keeping the local waterways healthy, spoke about the “crucial issue” of wastewater in the village.
    “There are tens of thousands of septic systems here,” he said, adding that he was “not asking the village to do anything today, just be aware of the imminent threat” that the wastewater could pose to the drinking water and estuaries.
    “Nantucket is already in crisis mode,” Mr. McAllister said. “And the nitrogen in our aquifers is increasing at an alarming rate.” He called some of the septic systems in use “archaic.”
    “I’m not trying to be cute here,” he said. “But we spend more money on Belgian block trimmings for our driveways than on suitable wastewater systems.”
    Also last Thursday, the board revisited the community forum on parking in the village, agreeing to look at the possibility of adding some 15-minute spaces in the Schenck’s parking lot and changing the time limits on some parking spaces at the upper end of Newtown Lane and by the post office on Pantigo Road.
    The board also reiterated that a letter would go out to all local businesses, perhaps in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce and the East Hampton Business Alliance, encouraging employees to park in the long-term lot.
    “We are hoping to get a good degree of cooperation with the store owners,” the mayor said.