It’s no secret that New York’s subway system is not a friendly place for the city’s disabled population. As of last year, just 112 of the city’s 472 subway stations were wheelchair accessible, and one of them has put the MTA in hot water.
On Tuesday, Manhattan’s United States Attorney Geoffrey Berman added his office to the list of plaintiffs in a lawsuit that accuses the authority of failing to make the Middletown Road station in the Bronx wheelchair accessible when it was renovated in 2014. The suit, which was originally filed in 2016, says that the work done by the MTA at that stop violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. By getting involved, Berman’s office puts the force of the federal government behind an already galvanized collection of local advocacy groups and individuals who have long fought to make the subway more accessible for the handicapped.
The lawsuit echoes the arguments put forth by a pair of lawsuits last year, both of which claimed that the MTA systematically discriminates against people with disabilities.
The MTA also came under fire from the disabled community last month when it announced that it would be rehabbing eight subway stations but would not be adding elevators or wheelchair ramps during the construction. The work is part of the authority’s $1 billion Enhanced Station Initiative, which includes funding to make 25 stations across the city wheelchair accessible. The lawsuit alleges that station renovations that do not come with accessibility upgrades violate the law.
The subway’s lack of accessibility is one of many issues that the MTA is facing as it works to bring the system into the 21st century. But considering that more than six percent of New Yorkers below the age of 65 have a disability, advocates argue that the MTA should make station accessibility a much bigger priority. With the feds now involved, this lawsuit could have enough teeth to force its hand.