Disabled elevator sign on a subway platform. Photo: Shutterstock

The Metropolitan Transit Authority has been “put on notice” to include accessibility features such as elevators whenever it looks to rehabilitate one of the city’s subway stations, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman of the Southern District of New York said Wednesday.

Berman’s comments come the day after U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos granted partial summary judgment in favor of the disability advocates and their federal intervenors in the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The suit was brought by the Disability Right Advocates on behalf of Bronx Independent Living Services and other plaintiffs over the renovations made by the MTA to the Middletown Road subway station in the Bronx between 2013 and 2014. Despite the full-scale replacement of staircases, platforms, and lighting, the authority did not install an elevator.

The plaintiffs brought suit in 2016 over the lack of an elevator as part of the renovations, arguing that the MTA was obligated to have made the installation under the American with Disabilities Act. The U.S. government joined the suit as an intervenor in March 2018.

In his opinion, Ramos agreed with the plaintiffs that the MTA was obligated under the act to make the accessibility improvements based on the scope and design of the usability of the renovations.

In a statement, Berman called Ramos’ decision “the end of the MTA treating people with disabilities as second-class citizens.”

“The MTA is now on notice that whenever it renovates a subway station throughout its system so as to affect the station’s usability, the MTA is obligated to install an elevator, regardless of the cost, unless it is technically infeasible,” the Manhattan U.S. attorney said. “Individuals with disabilities have the same rights to use the New York City subway system as every other person.”

In a separate statement, Disability Rights Advocates Managing Director Michelle Caiola, who was counsel to the plaintiffs, said Ramos’ decision highlights concerns over the overall inaccessibility of the city’s subway system.

“If MTA had been complying with the ADA over the past twenty-five years by installing elevators when it performs station renovations, we would be closer to full accessibility today,” Caiola said. “Clearly, MTA must change its practices related to accessibility as soon as possible.”

MTA Chief External Affairs Officer Max Young said “The MTA is steadfastly committed to improving access throughout the subway, with a hard and fast goal of making 50 additional stations accessible over five years.  We’re not wavering from that commitment. ”

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