Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, Transit Accessibility Advocates and Community Members Host March and Rally to Demand Accessible Subway Stations

May 7, 2018

New York, NY – Standing outside the newly shuttered B/C subway station at West 72nd Street and Central Park West this morning, Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan) was joined by disability and transit advocates and community members to demand the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) make this subway station, and other stations across the City, accessible to riders of all abilities, including disabled, elderly and pregnant riders. Without a single public hearing and only a few months advance notice, the MTA announced that it would close four subway stations between 163rd Street and West 72nd Street for six months to make repairs and improvements. Though the work is projected to cost $111 million, it does not include elevators, which would make the stations accessible to disabled riders.

“The MTA has a responsibility to get every single rider where they need to go, when they need to get there. With scheduled work of this magnitude and duration, this was an incredible opportunity to make decades of overdue upgrades that would provide accessibility,” said Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D/WF- Manhattan). “WiFi and arrival boards are welcome additions, but the higher priority is getting wheelchairs and walkers into every station.”

Without giving the public an opportunity to provide input, the MTA sent affected community boards notice of the closures, without any contingency plan in place to accommodate stranded riders or discussion about whether the stations, which do not have elevators, should be made accessible. Currently, 23% of subway stations in New York City are accessible. Within those stations, a recent audit conducted by NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer found that roughly 80% of the elevators and escalators did not receive all of their scheduled preventive maintenance. Disabled, pregnant and elderly riders report often finding themselves trapped in stations when expecting a station to be accessible.

“For any New Yorker who relies on a working elevator to enter or exit a subway station, the daily commute can feel like being trapped in a horrific game of human pinball,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “Somehow every single day, it is left up to hundreds of thousands of disabled New Yorkers to find stations with a working elevator.”

Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal recently introduced legislation, bill A.10179, that would require the MTA to hold a public hearing within the affected community whenever a station closing is scheduled to last for three months or longer.

“There is no better time to add elevators than when a station is already being closed for renovations. The closure of the 72nd St. station without a plan for accessibility is yet another example of the MTA's history of neglect,” said Colin Wright, Advocacy Associate at TransitCenter.

“AARP shares Assemblymember Rosenthal’s dismay that renovations for the subway station at 72nd Street and Central Park West and others include no plans to increase accessibility for older, disabled or otherwise mobility-impaired riders. Making subway stations more accessible with escalators and elevators is critical to creating a livable New York City for people of all ages. Our population is aging rapidly as Boomers move into retirement age, and the MTA should keep accessibility top of mind in all its work to update the city’s mass transit system,” said Chris Widelo, Associate State Director for New York City at AARP.

“New Yorkers deserve a transit system that is not only affordable and reliable, but one that is accessible, particularly for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who depend on elevators to access the subway system. New York cannot consider itself a modern city if it continuously bars access to its transit system, one of the largest in the world, to riders who cannot access stairs,” said Jaqi Cohen, Campaign Coordinator for the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign.

"The subway is the lifeblood of the city. No New Yorker should be denied access to its critical service. Each time major station upgrades happen, and especially when a station is fully closed for repairs, accessibility must made be a top priority. Riders thank Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal for bringing badly needed attention this issue," said Danny Pearlstein, Policy & Communications Director at Riders Alliance.

“It’s hard to think of a more important station improvement than adding elevators so everyone can use the 72nd Street station. We’re glad President Byford has made accessibility a priority; now we need the MTA to do the right thing and make sure every New Yorker can access our subways,” said Nick Sifuentes, Executive Director at Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

“Transportation is the second biggest barrier to employment for people with disabilities. Lack of subway elevator access means that we can't get to work, doctor's appointments, shopping, or social and cultural events quickly and on-demand like everyone else. Investing money in overhauling subway stations without adding accessible elevators is irresponsible and a violation of our civil rights,” said Monica Bartley, Community Outreach Organizer at Center For Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY).

“The MTA is stuck in a 1980s mentality when it fought subway accessibility in the courts, but meanwhile riders with disabilities are still stuck, unable to use a system that should be accessible to all. It’s time for the MTA to make 72nd Street and all other stations accessible,” said Joe Rappaport, executive director of the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled (BCID).

“Rise and Resist seeks 100% MTA access to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and as a matter of human and civil rights. We support the four current lawsuits to enforce full compliance. People with disabilities and their advocates have sought to make our subways fully accessible for decades. Governor Andrew Cuomo, unlike his father, has opposed these efforts,” said Jessica Murray, Staffer at Rise and Resist, Elevator Action Group.

“The MTA has continually ignored the disabled community especially those who use mobility devices when making major renovation to subway stations. The MTA president has promised to make New York City Subway system a lot more accessible, however, the 163rd, 110th, 86th, and the 72nd Street subway stations will be closed and renovated without any ADA disabled access. New York City is considered one of the most progressive cities in the country but this isn't progress,” said Jose Hernandez, Program Specialist at United Spinal.

“It’s the MTA’s responsibility to enable all potential riders access to every station in our public transit system, yet less than ¼ of stations have elevators. Maternal health is a real concern when talking about public transportation - women experience changes during pregnancy that make it dangerous to use stairs, like imbalance, nausea, and sciatica. It is also difficult to access stations with strollers if there is no elevator, and impossible with a double stroller. Our families appreciate the ESI upgrades as much as the next rider, but what we need is improved accessibility,” said Christine Yearwood, Founder and CEO at UP-STAND.