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Press Release

District Court Rules That MTA’s Renovation Of Subway Station Triggered MTA’s Obligation Under Americans With Disabilities Act To Install Elevators Unless Technically Infeasible

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that partial summary judgment has been granted in favor of plaintiffs and the Government in a lawsuit brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by private plaintiffs (Bronx Independent Living Services et al. v. MTA) in which the United States intervened.  U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (the “MTA”) replacement of the stairways at the Middletown Road subway station in the Bronx affected the station’s usability, thus triggering the MTA’s obligation under the ADA to install elevators, without regard to cost, unless it is technically infeasible to do so.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “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.  Individuals with disabilities have the same rights to use the New York City subway system as every other person.  The Court’s decision marks the end of the MTA treating people with disabilities as second-class citizens.  My Office will continue to work to ensure that the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act are enforced, and that everyone enjoys equal access to public transit in this District.”

The ADA, signed into law in 1990, prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.  Under its provisions, the ADA requires state and local government agencies to make alterations to public transit facilities readily accessible to, and usable by, individuals with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs.

In March 2018, this Office intervened in a private lawsuit brought by Disability Rights Advocates regarding the MTA’s refusal to install elevators at the Middletown Road station, despite undertaking a substantial renovation of the entire station, including the staircases.  The Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Authority (“FTA”), had declined the MTA’s request for federal funds for the renovation because the MTA’s refusal to install elevators violated the ADA.

Judge Ramos ruled that MTA’s renovation of the Middletown Road station was an alteration that triggered the ADA’s requirement to install an elevator unless it is technically not feasible to do so.  Specifically, Judge Ramos concluded that when a public transit authority alters a station in a way that affects its “usability,” the public transit authority must follow the requirements in 49 C.F.R. § 37.43(a)(1), requiring the installation of an elevator where technically feasible regardless of cost.  The Court rejected the MTA’s argument that the governing regulation permitted it to avoid installing an elevator based on cost considerations.

Mr. Berman thanked Disability Rights Advocates for its work in this case, as well as FTA for its continued assistance with this matter.

This case is being handled by the Civil Rights Unit of the Office’s Civil Division.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ellen Blain and Lara Eshkenazi are in charge of the case.

Updated March 6, 2019

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 19-062