Targets Pataki's Offices on Freedom Day
Nadina LaSpina, surrounded by police officers
from the 17th precinct discusses terms with Captain Kevin Ward.
ADAPT members block the entrance to Gov. Pataki's
city offices. Demonstrators are (left to right, seated) John Fay, Steve
Ferchak, Nadina LaSpina, Danny Robert and Michael Imperiale. Phil Bennet
and Jim Davis hold the banner.
12, was designated by National ADAPT, a radical disability rights group,
as "Freedom Day."
a day is chosen — close to Martin Luther King’s birthday — on which ADA
activists throughout the country hold actions with the greater purpose
of freeing disabled people from institutions.
New York ADAPT planned a two-pronged action — simultaneously in Albany
and in New York City — targeting Governor Pataki in an effort to force
New York State to comply with the June ’99 Olmstead Decision.
v. L.C., the Supreme Court upheld the “ADA integration mandate” which
states that individuals with disabilities must be offered services in the
“most integrated setting.” The court declared that “Undue institutionalization
qualifies as discrimination by reason of disability.” Following the Decision,
the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with which ADAPT has
cultivated a close collaborative relationship, advised all 50 states to
develop Olmstead Plans to move people out of institutions and into the
community with all necessary services and supports.
To date, five
letters have gone out from HHS to state medicaid directors and governors.
And to date, according to ADAPT activists, New York State has done nothing
to comply with the Olmstead Decision.
At noon Jan.
12, in Albany, one contingent of New York ADAPT invaded the executive offices
of Governor George Pataki, while in New York City, the other contingent
gathered in front of 633 Third Ave., the luxury office building which houses
the New York City executive offices of the Governor.
of NYC-New York ADAPT said, “We will listen to no more excuses. We are
here to demand that New York State develop an Olmstead Implementation Plan
by Oct. 2001. And that the plan be developed with the full participation
of our community — all disabilities. We demand that Governor Pataki instruct
his Medicaid Director to begin immediately identifying people who are now
in institutions and who want to come out — at least one percent of the
currently institutionalized population must be identified.”
also of NYC-New York ADAPT, added, “We want Pataki to make sure that all
Medicaid offices throughout the state know that fiscal assessment is dead!
End of story!” The fiscal assessment law required Social Service case workers
to institutionalize any client the cost of whose home care exceeded 90
percent of what nursing home care would cost. That law expired in June
lined up on the sidewalk in front of the building, holding signs reading,
“Institutions are prisons,” and “Is being disabled a crime?” and chanting
“Free our people now!” and “Implement Olmstead now!” The group negotiated
with Pataki’s staff and an agreement was reached that they would fax ADAPT’s
demands to the office in Albany and ask that an answer be faxed back ASAP.
an hour, no answer was forthcoming, the protestors, in wheelchairs, blocked
the entrances to the building. They told police that they would not move
until they got the answer from Albany in writing. Police threatened to
arrest them. Steve Ferchak, veteran activist, said, “You can arrest me
if you want. I’m not moving.”
echoed this sentiment. As an accessible paddy wagon appeared at the curbside,
at approximately 3:30 p.m., the answer the ADAPT protestors had been waiting
for was brought to them by Captain Ward of the 17th Precinct.
At about the
same time in Albany, Pataki’s press officer agreed, on behalf of the Governor,
to set up a meeting between New York ADAPT, the Governor’s office and the
state medicaid director within two weeks.