When the MTA announced in July that they would be spending $45 million on the Dyckman Street station rehabilitation, the project drew the attention of disabled advocates because the plans did not include ADA upgrades. Now, these groups are filing suit. In a complaint filed earlier this week in federal court, the United Spinal Association charges the MTA with ADA violations and has requested an injunction halting the Dyckman Street work until it complies with federal law.
“If the MTA is not required to make the Dyckman Street Station accessible, it is unlikely that the people with disabilities will ever be able to use the station because once this major renovation is complete, no project of this scope is likely to be undertaken at the Dyckman Street Station for decades,” the complaint says.
The battle over this station first came up over the summer when Transit officials responded to complaints from disabled groups about the scope of the work. The MTA said that they didn’t have the money to install elevators or ramps at Dyckman St. and weren’t required by law to do so. At the time, they claimed that the station “does not fit the criteria for a key station” and is not on the list of 100 “key stations” to become ADA-compliant by 2020. The stop, Transit spokesperson Deirdre Parker said in July, is “not a terminal point, is not a transfer point to other bus or subway lines, is not near any major activity centers and ranks 185th out of 422 stations in ridership.”
The United Spinal Association disputes these claims. They say that even if Dyckman St. cannot be made fully accessible right now, the Americans with Disabilities Act still requires the MTA to spend 20 percent of the project budget on what they term access improvements. “By making incremental improvements to accessibility now,” the complaint says, “even great accessibility can be achieved when future projects are considered at the…station.”
Despite the United Spinal Association’s focus on the Dyckman St. rehab, their complaint touches upon issues more serious than that and stems from what many disabled riders believe is institutional neglect on the part of the MTA. When Congress enacted the ADA — an unfunded federal mandate — the New York Senate delegation, federal regulators and the MTA worked out a compromise. The authority signed a consent decree to make 100 key stations fully ADA accessible by 2020. So far, they’ve completed 73 key stations and 16 non-key stations.
Yet, advocates for disabled riders say this isn’t enough. “It is an absolute disgrace that twenty years after the ADA was passed, more than 80% of the subway stations in New York are inaccessible,” Julia Pinover, a lawyer with the Disability Rights Advocates who is representing the United Spinal Association in its case, said.
The MTA does not comment on lawsuits in progress, but in the past, the authority has spoken about issues of cost. The ADA is, as I mentioned, an unfunded federal law. Congress has required state and state entities to pay for these costly upgrades but has not provided federal dollars for the projects. When the MTA upgrades a station, it must include more money than it would to ensure compliance with the ADA. Even though the authority says it doesn’t have the money for upgrades to Dyckman St., the complaint — embedded below — makes a strong case for the plaintiffs.
In related news, the MTA plans to cut back Paratransit service to the minimum required by law. The service costs $470 million a year, and by eliminated some door-to-door service and cutting the driver rolls, Jay Walder believes he can save up to $80 million annually.
Advocates too are up in arms, but again, they recognize that the MTA’s fiscal problems are a high barrier. Still, they want the authority to do more. “The Americans With Disabilities Act,” Mike Godino of the Brooklyn Center for the Independence of the Disabled said to New York 1, “should be viewed as a floor, not a ceiling, to accesibility.”
After the jump, a copy of the complaint filed in United Spinal Association v. MTA.