By Bill Parry
Astoria’s elected officials and community leaders have been arguing since October that the MTA’s massive renovation project that completely closed the 30th and 36th Avenue stations on the N and W stations violated federal law for not upgrading accessibility with elevators.
Now, state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) points to a federal lawsuit — filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District against the MTA and New York City Transit Authority for failure to make a Bronx subway station accessible after a full renovation — that proves their complaints have merit.
“The MTA’s continued emphasis on style over substance wastes scarce resources, hurts transit riders, and stunts our economy while its failed Enhanced Station Initiative continues to cosmetically renovate stations without improving service or accessibility,” Gianaris said. “It should not take federal legal intervention to force the MTA to do its job, yet here we are. It is past time for the Enhanced Station Initiative to end and for the money to be spent instead on actually fixing our subways.”
Prosecutors announced the lawsuit Tuesday, alleging that the MTA and NYCTA violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 when they altered the Middletown Road subway station on the No. 6 line in the Bronx without insuring that the station was rendered readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities to the maximum extent feasible.
“There is no justification for public entities to ignore the requirements of the ADA 28 years after its passage,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said. “The subway system is a vital part of New York City’s transportation system, and when a subway station undergoes a complete renovation, MTA and NYCTA must comply with its obligations to make such stations accessible to the maximum extent feasible.”
The MTA said it has spent more than $1.7 billion to make subway stations ADA-accessible and the next five-year capital program will have more money for further improvements.
The MTA added that this is not a new case, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office is joining a 2016 civil lawsuit from members of the public, which is ongoing.
“The MTA and NYC Transit are committed to adding and maintaining accessibility for the century-old subway system, and working hard to do so by investing more than a billion dollars over the current five-year capital plan alone,” an MTA spokesman said. “While we can’t comment on specific legislation, the pending civil lawsuit that the U.S. attorney joined today is nearly two years old and concerns a single station. We are defending the case on its merits.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr