Two months before most of Broadway’s theaters reopened, the Manhattan attorneys office on Tuesday announced that a major operator had agreed to provide more wheelchair access to its five theaters as part of a settlement. .
Audrey Strauss, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, has announced a lawsuit against the Jujamcyn Theaters, alleging that its theaters violate the Americans With Disabilities Act, as well as an agreement with the company to remedy it.
As part of the deal, the Al Hirschfeld, August Wilson, Eugene ONeill, St. James and Walter Kerr theaters will provide 44 additional wheelchair accessible seats and 54 aisle transfer seats, and remove approximately 200 barriers to accessibility in theaters’ toilets. , concession counters, waiting areas and ticket office.
Jujamcyn will also pay a civil fine of $ 40,000, according to the announcement.
As New York City begins to reopen and welcome the world again, we are delighted that Jujamcyn Theaters, LLC, has worked with the office to improve the accessibility of its historic places, so that all customers can enjoy Broadway, Ms. Strauss said in a statement.
An email sent Tuesday night to a spokesperson for Jujamcyn was not immediately returned.
The first upgrades are expected to be completed by the end of September, according to court documents.
The deal with Jujamcyn is the latest that authorities have made with companies that operate Broadway theaters, many of which were opened decades before the historic Americans With Disabilities Act was signed in 1990, demanding greater accessibility for disabled people.
For years accessibility in Broadway theaters has been a challenge, with issues ranging from a limited number of wheelchair accessible seats inside theaters to a lack of box office housing. Broadway theater operators have long been committed to making their facilities more ADA compliant.
Join Times theater reporter Michael Paulson in a conversation with Lin-Manuel Miranda, see a performance of Shakespeare in the Park, and more as we explore the signs of hope in a transformed city. For a year, the Offstage series followed the theater until it closed. We were now watching his rebound.
In 2003, the head of the organization Shubert said she had spent about $ 5 million to modernize 16 movie theaters to bring them into ADA compliance, following a recommendation from the U.S. Attorneys Office. What we did was a combination of coercion and volunteering, said Gerald Schoenfeld, president of the organization at the time. We were a willing accomplice.
In 2014, the Nederlander Organization reached an agreement with the United States attorney’s office to modernize nine facilities after the attorney’s office filed a complaint. The company has agreed to provide 70 additional wheelchair accessible seating and 134 additional aisle transfer seating, and to remove more than 500 accessibility barriers in its theaters.
In general, for facilities built after the ADA came into effect in the 1990s, accessibility barriers should be removed when easily possible, according to the United States Attorneys Office. .
The announcement of the settlement with Jujamcyn came as Broadway and other theater districts around the world prepared to reopen after pandemic restrictions forced many to temporarily close. Some shows responded by offering a streaming version of their in-person productions, allowing ticket holders to watch and listen to from home, a boon to those who found the in-person productions inaccessible.
But as more people were getting vaccinated and pandemic restrictions were relaxed, emissions returned to their respective stages. (The first show returned to Broadway last month, with Bruce Springsteen dazzling over 1,700 spectators with music and storytelling for two hours at the St. James Theater.)
And the return to more in-person performances in theaters has rekindled concerns about the accessibility of theaters and fears that accessibility in the era of the pandemic may be lost.
In New York, theater operators said they were making strides to improve the in-person experience for those who need help.
In 2018, New York City announced that it would offer grants to Off Broadway and other small theaters to install software that allows customers to keep up with low-light smartphones and tablets.
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