Local Law 58 of 1987 (LL58), the accessibility amendments to the City’s Building Code, were the first significant change in access to the built environment for people with disabilities in New York City since the 1968 adoption of accessibility standards developed in 1961. During the intervening decades there were substantial advances in technology as well as in the perception of the need to integrate people with disabilities into the mainstream of society. The magnitude of the Building Code modifications reflected that enormous progress.

LL58 requires design features in new construction and rehabilitation that foster access for people with disabilities. Most dwelling units must be accessible when newly built or be made accessible when altered and be readily adaptable by a resident with disabilities. Non- residential rooms and spaces intended for the general public and occupant use – including common areas of residential buildings, mercantile, and other business establishments, assembly and educational facilities – must be accessible when newly built or be made accessible when altered. Public toilet rooms, telephones, drinking fountains, parking lot spaces, signs, emergency warning devices, and other facilities are addressed as well. The law provides for exterior and interior accessible routes from the public sidewalk, on-site parking and primary entrances to interior rooms, spaces, facilities, etc. and, exterior facilities.

One- and two-family homes, as well as some existing three-family homes are exempted and, in non-elevator multiple dwellings, only the ground floor dwelling units must be adaptable. With respect to renovations of existing buildings, if more than fifty percent of the replacement cost is to be spent on renovations, the entire building will have to comply with the accessibility provisions of the code as if the building was newly constructed. If such costs do not exceed that percentage, only portions of the building being altered need comply; ordinary repairs are exempted. If the occupancy classification or the use of the entire building is to change, the entire building will have to comply with the accessibility provisions of the code as if the building was newly constructed, regardless of the cost of the renovation. If the occupancy classification or use in a portion of the building is changed, that entire changed portion and, in some cases the route to that changed portion must be made accessible as if newly constructed.

The law requires design features based on the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard A117.1-1986 (referred to in the amendments as Reference Standard 4-6). These features include, among others, wider doorways, grab bar supports, storage access, counter heights, sinks, toilets, lavatories, electrical receptacles and other items usable by people with and without disabilities.

These accessibility amendments establish a waiver procedure. However, this procedure permits waivers only as to the alteration of existing buildings. Waivers are only available when they would not significantly adversely affect provisions for health, safety and security and when equally safe and proper alternatives are required. In addition, each waiver must be based on a written finding specifically stating that strict compliance with the requirements of the building code would:

  1. create an undue economic burden
  2. not achieve its intended objective
  3. be physically or legally impossible
  4. be unnecessary in light of alternatives which insure the achievement of the
    intended objective or which, without a loss in the level of safety, achieve the
    inteneded objective more efficiently, effectively or economically
  5. entail a change so slight as to produce a negligible additional benefit consonant with the purposes of the Building Code.

The Commissioner of the Department of Buildings is required to consult with and to be advised by the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities in determining whether such waivers are to be granted.

While the intent of LL58 was to provide access for people with disabilities and to foster integration into the mainstream of society, it in fact has far broader benefits. Accessible design includes safety features that benefit many people, not just those with disabilities. In predating the concept of universal design its design requirements enable apartments to easily accommodate the life span. For more information or a copy of Local Law 58 of 1987, contact MOPD.

Click here to see examples of adaptable bathrooms and powder rooms as permitted under Local Law 58: Pictures (in pdf format)
First half of pictures
Second half of pictures

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