State audit details ways to make New York's parks more accessible

New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office released a new audit outlining ways the state Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation Department can improve amenities to make them more inclusive with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Jonathan Gordon

Aug 18, 2023, 12:14 AM

Updated 281 days ago

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New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office released a new audit outlining ways the state Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation Department can improve amenities to make them more inclusive with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
DiNapoli is urging the state to make these changes to ensure the parks system is available to everyone.
"This is about accessibility and making sure all people can feel welcomed when they visit our state parks and historic sites," said Mary Mueller, press secretary for the state comptroller.
The audit found the Parks Department has not actively incorporated accessibility into its parks maintenance and operations, two-thirds of amenities were found to need accessibility improvements and information about accessibility both online and on sight was not always accurate.
Amenities looked at included beaches, cabins, elevators, parking lots, bathrooms, playgrounds and swimming pools.
Issues included mislabeled signage, uneven paths, a lack of wheelchair-accessible restroom stalls and not enough parking spaces.
Officials looked at 40 of the state's 250 parks and historic sites between January 2018 and October 2021 and while they found room for improvements all of the facilities were ADA-compliant.
The report documents eight parks and historic sites in the Hudson Valley including James Baird in Pleasant Valley, Taconic in Copake Falls, Clarence Fahnestock in Carmel Hamlet, Philipse Manor Hall in Yonkers, Tallman Mountain in Sparkill, Harriman in Ramapo, Bear Mountain and Sterling Forest in Tuxedo Park.
State parks in the Palisades Region, which included Rockland and Orange counties, had 91 potential improvement areas identified of the 117 reviewed, meaning the audit found 78% of amenities or areas could be made more accessible. Parks in the Palisades region had the worst grade among 11 regions statewide.
State parks in the Taconic Region, which included Dutchess, Putnam, and Columbia counties, had 79 potential improvement areas identified of the 121 reviewed, meaning 65% of amenities or areas could be made more accessible. Parks in the Taconic region had the fifth worst grade among 11 regions statewide.
DiNapoli recommends state park officials train staff on ADA requirements, monitor new construction, develop procedures for addressing complaints and improve the accuracy of publicly reported information on accessibility.
Officials found the state's historic sites, including Phillipse Manor, were generally committed to making them as accessible as possible.
Jane Zemon, CEO of Arc Rockland, a nonprofit that provides support services to eight hundred people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, said this report is a necessary first step.
"People are looking at something important to people with disabilities and they're looking to plan, hopefully, to make some changes," said Zemon.
A spokesperson for the state Parks Department responded to the audit and said in a statement, "The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) appreciates the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) for its responsible audit regarding accessibility. We take these findings and recommendations very seriously and continue to work to address accessibility for all New Yorkers in our 250 state parks and historic sites. The report is based on visits to 44 of those sites."
Parks has 180 days to respond to the audit with a plan for how they can or cannot meet the recommendations, according to the state comptroller's office.


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