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Louis Kahn’s FDR Memorial May Not Be ADA-Compliant

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City Hall and the nonprofit that runs the memorial are in a dispute over a section of the park called the Room

Last year, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrated it's 25th anniversary. The watershed legislation, which was enacted in 1990, prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in public buildings and ensures that structures are designed to be accessible.

But what happens when a memorial that was designed before—but built after—the ADA isn't fully accessible? Should the design be altered?

These questions are at the center of a dispute, the New York Times reports, between New York City and the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy, the nonprofit group that built and operates the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island. The memorial, which opened four years ago, was designed by American architect Louis Kahn in 1974.

While the memorial as a whole complies with the ADA, there is a section at the southernmost tip of the park that does not. A 12-by-60-foot sunken terrace, which was designed to enhance views of the skyline and the East River from a ledge, can only be reached by steps. President Roosevelt, who was paralyzed from the waist down, would not have been able to access this space.

The conservancy argues that the area, called the Room, was not intended by Kahn to be entered and feels like a "pit." Mayor De Blasio has proposed that ramps be installed on either side, but the conservancy, which carefully considered the suggestion, believes that the alterations would significantly compromise Kahn's original design. The conservancy maintains that the park is ADA compliant. A permanent certificate of occupancy and financing are being held until a solution can be reached.