Q&A: Public Financing for Wheelchair Ramps

Q I am on the board of a cooperative that is over forty-years-old. We wish to replace steps in the lobby with ramps to accommodate wheelchairs. We want to know if we can receive any public financing since we are helping the disabled.

—Ramp Seeker

A “In your inquiry, you suggest that your cooperative is voluntarily performing the ramp work to help persons with disabilities. Under the federal, state and city laws, the ramp work may not be voluntary, but rather a required ‘reasonable accommodation’ or a handicap accessibility requirement under the New York City Building Code,” says Joseph Colbert, a partner attorney with the law firm of Kagan, Lubic, Lepper, Lewis, Gold & Colbert, LLP in Manhattan. “Because the work is likely required by those laws, public financing is probably not available specifically for such work. I am not aware of any federal or New York state or city public financing programs for your privately-owned cooperative’s project.

“The state and city have borrowing programs to help assist state and city Mitchell-Lama cooperatives (i.e., cooperatives formed under the Mitchell-Lama laws and supervised by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development or New York State Department of Housing and Community Renewal.) Those cooperatives might be able to use proceeds from those borrowing programs to pay for handicap access alterations. However, such programs are not available for privately-owned cooperatives. You might consider investigating grants that might apply but I am not aware of any. The Internet is an inexpensive and useful resource for that type of research.”

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