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photo of Thomas K. Duane2008 Questionnaire response from:
Thomas K. Duane, candidate for State Senator (29th State Senate District, Manhattan)

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Candidate Name: Thomas K. Duane

Candidate for State Senate District: 29


Campaign Name: Tom Duane for Senate

Campaign Address: 80 Eighth Avenue (1802), New York, NY 10011

If you have a campaign office, is it wheelchair accessible? Yes

If you are an incumbent, is your district office wheelchair accessible? Yes

Campaign Manager: Ms. Bobby Berlin

Phone: 212 - 362 - 8731

Fax: 212 - 206 - 0535

Email: webmaster @


Previous elected offices held: Incumbent, New York City Councilmember, Democratic District Leader

Previous appointed offices held: Member, Manhattan Community Board 4


Key endorsements to date:

  • Sierra Club
  • League of Humane Voters
  • Chelsea Reform Democratic Club
  • Village Independent Democrats
  • Park River Independent Democrats
  • Downtown Independent Democrats
  • Community Free Democrats
  • Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club
  • Tilden Midtown Democratic Club
  • Gramercy Stuyvesant Independent Democrats
  • Working Families Party





    1. While in public office/prior to this campaign, what have you accomplished in regard to advancing disability rights? This can include work towards accessible housing, transportation, employment, health care, education, and including people with disabilities in the political process?

      My record of fighting for disability access goes back many years, to even before I first held public office, when I helped successfully fight to ensure that New York City Transit bus drivers carry and use the keys necessary to operate the wheelchair lifts, and I have promoted legislation and policies that advance the rights of the disabled in all the areas mentioned. I am particularly proud of my role in spearheading the State Senate's passage of Timothy's Law, which eliminates mental-health treatment discrimination by insurance companies in New York State, and I continue to fight to extend that coverage to people with chemical dependence and post-traumatic stress disorder. Most recently, I have joined Assemblymember Micah Kellner in introducing two bills to reform the way that the MTA responds to the needs of transit riders with disabilities. One bill (A10734-A/S7817) creates the MTA Riders Council for People with Disabilities, a 14-member appointed council representing riders who use NYC Transit, the Long Island Rail Road, and Metro North systems. The Council will have a non-voting seat on the MTA Board and will monitor all aspects of the MTA and make recommendations as to how to improve services for people with disabilities. The second bill (A10420/S7348) requires daily inspections of elevators, escalators, bus lifts, and other accessibility features in MTA facilities and establishes documentation requirements and oversight for their repair.


    2. Will you commit to only attend and/or sponsor events that are accessible to people with disabilities including providing written materials in alternate formats, providing assistive listening systems, and sign language interpreters as well as ensuring that locations are physically accessible?

      I only host and co-sponsor events that are at locations that are physically accessible, however, until I am in the Majority and have the ability to allocate funds to provide written materials in alternate formats, provide assistive listening systems, and sign language interpreters, I cannot commit to do so.




    1. What personal and professional experience have you had with people with disabilities in your personal life and in the workplace?

      I am HIV positive and my late brother Billy was disabled. I worked with developmentally disabled and emotionally disturbed children and adults in high school and college.


    2. Are you willing to hire and to provide reasonable accommodation (e.g. flex or part time) for staff members with disabilities?



    3. How will you work closely with the disability community to assure passage of vitally needed legislation through the State Legislature? What will be your strategy?

      As I have in the past, I will consult and strategize with advocates in the disabilities community to help set our legislative agenda and mobilize our community and its allies to ensure our legislative agenda's passage. Of course, having a Democratic controlled Senate will play a big role in achieving much of our shared agenda.




    1. What will you do at the State level to reverse the negative impact of recent decisions in Federal Courts which are undercutting the powers of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities in New York State?

      I am opposed to any judiciary or legislative action which would weaken the American with Disablities Act. As such, I am the prime sponsor of S.2315. which would waive the state's sovereign immunity to liability for violations of the ADA. It also waives the immunity of all instrumentalities and political subdivisions of the state.


    2. How would you change the laws of New York State to protect the rights of its citizens with disabilities?

      I would ensure that New York, including governmental entities, is in full compliance with the ADA. I am the prime sponsor of S.2315, which would waive the state's sovereign immunity to liability for violations of the ADA. It also waives the immunity of all instrumentalities and political subdivisions of the state.




    While the State is focused on reducing the costs of Medicaid and other programs, persons with disabilities need to continue to have access to the services and supports they need and choose.

    1. Would you oppose proposals which would negatively affect eligibility, benefits, coverage, and/or access to services for Medicaid beneficiaries and eliminate the systemic bias that leads to unwanted placement in nursing homes and other institutions?



    2. Would you seek to promote comprehensive long term care reform that will not reduce coverage or access to services?



    3. Would you increase rental/housing subsidies to participants in the new Nursing Facility Transition and Diversion Medicaid waiver program?





    1. Timothy's Law was designed to end health insurance discrimination by enacting parity in coverage for people with biologically-based psychiatric disabilities. However, returning veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are not covered. Do you favor amending Timothy's Law to provide coverage for PTSD?



    2. Under Kendra's Law, a state-funded Medicaid grants program was established to provide medications for eligible individuals with psychiatric disabilities upon release or discharge from institutions to eliminate some of the problems associated with the Medicaid coverage gap. Do you support Medicaid Presumptive Eligibility legislation which would eliminate the standard 45 days coverage gap that blocks access to treatment?



    3. Would you expand Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage program (EPIC) to provide the same level of eligibility and coverage to persons with disabilities under age 65?





    1. We are in the midst of a housing crisis. Accessible, affordable housing is in short supply. People with disabilities are being priced out of the market. Do you support the creation of a housing trust fund for persons with disabilities?



    2. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires housing developers to set aside a certain percentage of accessible units for persons with disabilities when federal funds are used for construction. Do you favor incorporating these provisions into State law so that the Dept. of Housing and Community Renewal can be empowered to enforce these provisions?



    3. Visitability sets guidelines to ensure newly constructed multi-family dwellings have basic accessible/adaptable features to permit people with disabilities can visit, and for residents to "age in place," without having to move out when age and/or disability set in. Do you support incorporating the concept of "visitability" in the New York State Building Code?



    4. What is your position on expanding DRIE (Disabled Rent Increase Exemption) to have the same income eligibility limits as SCRIE (Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption)? Currently SCRIE's income cap is $27,000, while DRIE's is $18,600.

      Frankly, both the SCRIE and DRIE income caps should be increased, and they should be the same.



    With the recent decision to acquire voting machines that attempt to meet the accessibility standards of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), many poling places in New York State remain inaccessible to persons with disabilities. Do you favor the elimination of provisions in Section 4-104 (1-a) of the NYS Election Law allowing waiver of polling place accessibility standards?

    Waiver of polling place accessibility standards should not be allowed. I strongly support having at LEAST one accessible voting machine in each polling place in New York State.




    1. Despite Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, students with disabilities face problems when pursuing higher education. These statutes do not specify how students should request accommodations or assistance in asserting their rights under the law. Will you support a fully funded office of disability services on each SUNY and CUNY campus to assist students with disabilities in securing accommodations?



    2. How do you propose dealing with a school district that deny civil rights to disabled students even after the State Division of Civil Rights affirms the student's rights such as to use an assist animal?

      I will use the full force of State law to compel compliance and introduce and pass legislation containing strong sanctions if this fails.




    1. Do you favor an expansion of accessible transportation options for people with disabilities in NYS?



    2. Will you support Assembly Member Kellner's proposed bill requiring NYC to transition to a 100% accessible taxi fleet?



    3. Do you support legislation requiring car services, and all shuttle services to purchase wheelchair accessible vehicles or otherwise ensure that they have the capacity to serve persons with disabilities?



Date: June 22, 2008


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