Center for Independence of the Disabled New York (CIDNY) v. MTA (State case)

Scroll to case documents Date Filed: 04/25/2017 Date Settled: 04/24/2023 Status:

This case challenges the MTA’s failure to install elevators at all New York City’s subway stations. DRA has a second, related case challenging the MTA’s failure to maintain the few elevators that currently exist.

In April 2017, DRA filed a class action lawsuit against the New York City Transit Authority (“NYCTA”), Metropolitan Transit Authority (“MTA”), and New York City (“the City”) for their failure to make the subway system programmatically accessible for persons whose mobility and other disabilities restrict them from using stairs.

The City’s subway system has long been City’s lifeline, enabling over 6 million people per day to participate in its economic, political, cultural and civic life. Indeed, an average resident of New York depends on subways to carry out a vast array of essential tasks every day of his/her life. For people with disabilities, however, meaningful access to the subway system has remained all but illusory. The rare accessible stations tend to be spaced out by at least 30 blocks and constitute less than 25 percent of the total number of stations. In numerous parts of the City, residents with disabilities have no access whatsoever. As a result, they remain completely barred from a mode of transportation that has shaped City’s life in a way that is unparalleled elsewhere in the country.

DRA’s ultimate goal was to ensure that the Defendants institute a comprehensive remedial scheme to address this devastating exclusion of people with disabilities from one of the nation’s largest and most important public transportation systems.

Justice Hagler, ruling from the bench in June 2019, denied the MTA and the City of New York’s motions to dismiss our case and ruled that our lawsuit could go forward. As Judge Hagler stated “there is no license by the MTA, by any other agency to discriminate against any individual by race, minority, ethnicity or disability.”

In February 2021, the New York Supreme Court certified a class of all people with disabilities for whom the use of stairs is difficult or impossible and who are therefore unable to access over 75% of the New York City subway. The Court’s order appointed Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York, Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, Bronx Independent Living Services, Harlem Independent Living Center, Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York, New York StateWide Senior Action Council, Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, Dustin Jones, and Chris Pangilinan as class representatives to represent and zealously advocate for the rights of all people affected by this discriminatory exclusion. The order also appointed Disability Rights Advocates and Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP as class counsel. This decision allowed the civil rights lawsuit to be addressed on behalf of not just the plaintiffs, but all New Yorkers with disabilities who cannot access the subway.

In June 2022, plaintiffs and the MTA signed a historic settlement agreement that will make accessible at least 95% of the NYC subway’s 364 currently inaccessible stations by 2055. This is a landmark achievement because only 113 stations have been made accessible since the subway was built in 1904. Read the Settlement Agreement here. In April 2023, the court granted final approval to the settlement agreement.

Under the Settlement Agreement, the MTA commits to dedicating 14.69% of each of its 5-year Capital Plan budgets to station accessibility, barring unexpected critical needs. Should such unexpected needs arise, the MTA commits to devoting no less than 8% of its total Capital Plan to station accessibility. Never before has the Capital Program mandated a minimum, let alone such a significant investment, in making stations accessible to people with disabilities. Additionally, the Agreement ensures that stations will be made accessible as part of many renovation and rehabilitation projects. In total, the MTA commits that in addition to the 81 stations currently slated for accessibility in the 2020-2024 Capital Program, 85 more stations will be accessible by 2035, another 90 by 2045, and the final 90 by 2055.

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