Disability advocates challenge MTA’s station renovations under federal law

Subway riders take the elevator at the 181st Street and Fort Washington station. 

The class action suit follows a federal judge’s landmark March
ruling in disability advocates favor

Disability advocates filed a class action lawsuit on Wednesday
against the MTA, challenging the transit authority’s practice of
renovating subway stations without adding elevators as
discriminatory under federal law.

The lawsuit, filed by national nonprofit Disability Rights
Advocates (DRA) on behalf of a coalition of local groups, seeks a
court order requiring the MTA to install elevators, or other
accessibility alternatives, in all station renovations, along with
a declaration that the MTA’s practice of “ignoring
accessibility during renovations” is unlawful, according to the
suit.

“The MTA has consistently engaged in major renovation projects
to improve station usability for nondisabled riders—spending
millions of dollars and closing stations for months to conduct the
work—while systematically failing to install elevators or other
stair-free routes,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed in
the Southern District of New York and does not seek monetary
damages.

Currently, only a quarter of the subway system’s 472 stops
have lifts. The MTA did not immediately return a request for
comment.

“It’s long past time access is first among the MTA’s
priorities, not an afterthought or not thought of at all,” said
Joe Rappaport, executive director of the Brooklyn Center for
Independence of the Disabled—a plaintiff in the class action
suit.

The suit comes on the heels of a March ruling in a similar suit,
also brought forward by DRA, that charged the MTA with violating
the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it overhauled the
Middletown Road station in the Bronx without installing
elevators.

U.S. District Court Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled that the station

renovations triggered the MTA’s obligation under the ADA
to
add elevators, unless doing so would be technically impossible. The
ruling is poised to have a profound effect on how the MTA renovates
subway stations, and Wednesday’s lawsuit takes the action a step
further by applying the principal system-wide.

“The MTA needs to get their priorities straight,” said Susan
Dooha, executive director of the Center for Independence of the
Disabled, New York, another plaintiff in the suit. “When
they’re already doing the work and spending money to fix a
station, they need to remember to finish the job and install
elevators.”

Source: FS – NYC Real Estate
Disability advocates challenge MTA’s station renovations under federal law