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These handicapped New Yorkers are behind hundreds of lawsuits
By Melkorka Licea
September 16, 2017 | 9:41pm
Five New Yorkers in wheelchairs are behind nearly 400 lawsuits brought against small businesses for lacking handicap access.
Such legal claims have been criticized as part of a “cottage industry” of “serial plaintiffs” who target mom-and-pop establishments for quick cash settlements. But others see the suits as helping enforce the American with Disabilities Act.
Wheelchair ramps and bathroom doors are not the only battleground. Two blind New Yorkers have taken the fight online, filing a combined 23 suits against business Web sites that didn’t have screen-reading software for the visually impaired. And a woman cited seven businesses for not allowing her service dog inside.
Zoltan Hirsch, 37, a double amputee from Brooklyn, is hell on wheels for those who fail to make their establishments wheelchair accessible. Since 2010, he has filed suit against 195 businesses ranging from a Soho eyeglass shop to Brooklyn bodegas to a Hell’s Kitchen restaurant.
Four other New Yorkers have filed 200 suits over wheelchair access: Luigi Girotto (70 suits), Pedro Fontanes (55), Jerry Cankat (52) and Nauqone Taylor (23).
Fontanes, 69, of Queens, has filed 13 suits against businesses along Fifth Avenue in Park Slope between Ninth and Bergen streets.