A newly renovated subway station at 72 Street. Some three-quarters of stations in NYC subway system are inaccessible to people with disabilities. Photo: MTA/Flickr

Disability advocates seek to bring the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to task over what they claim is a systemic failure to build required accessibility features into rehabilitated stations.

Advocates filed the class action suit in the Southern District of New York on Wednesday, following a significant legal win for many of the same groups in March. In that decision granting partial summary judgment for the plaintiffs, U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos of the Southern District of New York found the agency was required under the Americans with Disabilities Act to include reasonable accessibility improvements when stations were being redone, regardless of the cost, and should have done so during a rehabilitation project in the Bronx.

Following the partial summary judgment order, the suit has moved towards discovery, with expert reports and exhibitions scheduled through the end of July.

The office of the U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman of the Southern District of New York is an intervenor in the suit. Following Ramos’ ruling in favor of the disability advocates, Berman said the MTA was “on notice” for including accessibility improvements like elevators in station improvements.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on the office’s intentions regarding the latest suit.

Advocates now hope to win a similar result, only across the nation’s largest public transit system.

“The MTA’s actions clearly demonstrate that they value amenities like Wi-Fi over serving passengers with disabilities,” Michelle Caiola, managing director of litigation for one of the plaintiffs. “MTA has a longstanding pattern of ignoring their ADA obligations when altering stations, harming not only those with disabilities, but all New Yorkers who benefit from elevator access, including parents with strollers and senior citizens. Its disregard and negligence should no longer be tolerated.”

The suit claims the MTA has an “ongoing discriminatory practice of renovating New York City subway stations without installing elevators or other stair-free routes in blatant violation” of the ADA. Advocates and transit users with mobility disabilities have been pushing “for decades” for the transit authority on making accessibility improvements to stations during renovations, according to the complaint.

Advocates claims some three-quarters of stations in the New York City subway system are inaccessible to people with disabilities. This, they say, despite decades of renovations at stations where ADA-required accessibility improvements should have been included.

A spokesman for the MTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Joining DRA’s legal team for the plaintiffs is Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton partner Daniel Brown.


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