Today: 16.08.2018
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Wheelchair-bound man demands $50K from inaccessible shops.

A Queens man who uses a wheelchair to get around has been demanding $50,000 a pop from dozens of Manhattan businesses — or else he’ll sue them over their lack accessibility for the disabled. Arik Matatov, 24, lives in Rego Park, but that didn’t stop him from targeting nearly 50 Manhattan shops — from Christian...
Time: 22:44     Date: 22.07.2018
Metro News: Wheelchair-bound man demands $50K from inaccessible shops. NY Post 24 - US News

Arik Matatov, 24, lives in Rego Park, but that didn’t stop him from targeting nearly 50 Manhattan shops — from Christian Dior to a designer bridal salon — over a six-week period last winter.

He huffed it out to each location with a pal, who photographed him outside the establishments, which lacked ramps or elevators, according to his Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuits.

“He’s looking to have access to places. He’s very strong on that,” said Matatov’s lawyer, Jeffrey Neiman, who would not allow his client to be interviewed.

But when asked why the jobless Matatov visited stores that seemingly have little to offer him, including the pricey bridal salon Karen Willis Holmes off Broome Street and the beauty-supply store Red Flower on Prince Street, Neiman claimed, “He likes to browse.”

Reached by phone Sunday, Matatov sighed when The Post asked him about his lawsuits.

“No comment. I am not home,” he said before hanging up.

Matatov and his lawyer fired off threatening letters to at least 49 businesses.

“To avoid litigation, we offer to settle this matter for $50,000 plus the commitment to purchase and have readily available a portable ramp,” the letters read, according to a copy of obtained by The Post.

“It’s extortion,” said Philip Pizzuto, the lawyer for one of the shops, Caffe Roman, a 127-year-old Broome Street institution.

Matatov claims in court papers that when he visited Caffe Roman on Dec. 21, his friend “went inside to speak to an employee and ask if they had a ramp or other alternate entrance.”

“The employee informed me they did not have either,” the pal, Amner Barayev, says in an affidavit filed with the suit.

But Pizzuto said, “That was just a complete lie.”

He said the cafe has a ramp used by wheelchair-using regulars and sent The Post photos of customers on it.

A man who looks just like Barayev answered the door on Sunday at an address listed to a person by the same name. But he denied knowing Matatov.

Neiman refused to comment on the Caffe Roma case because it’s in litigation, but he addressed Pizzuto’s allegation.

“It’s hardly extortion to have somebody comply with the law,” he said.

Neiman said he chose the $50,000 figure because it is what the state attorney general could fine the businesses for not complying with handicap-accessibility laws.

“We’re not making oodles and oodles of money,” Neiman said.

He wouldn’t say how much Matatov has collected in settlements but boasted that 10 business have made their entrances accessible in response to his demands.

Steven Kirkpatrick, a lawyer for the trendy women’s clothing store AYR in Soho, said he agreed to settled Matatov’s case for less than the $50,000 demand.

Kirkpatrick said he has noticed an upsurge in such disability suits in recent years.

“It’s easy money for lawyers,” he explained.

Critics, meanwhile, said the lawsuits do little to improve the lives of people in wheelchairs.

“Multimillion-dollar cookie-cutter-claims like these have nothing to do with increasing access for the disabled,” said Tom Stebbins, director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.

“The court system is being exploited to bully small businesses into paying out settlements.

“It’s extortion, plain and simple,” he added.

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Business

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Metro

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Sport

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