De La Rosa v. Metropolitan Transportation Authority
A civil rights class action lawsuit was filed on May 15, 2019 in New York against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), challenging its prevalent, discriminatory practice of renovating New York City subway stations without installing elevators or other stair-free routes in blatant violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This ongoing illegal conduct harms hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices, and also those who have heart or lung conditions, arthritis, or other disabilities that make it difficult, dangerous, or impossible to use stairs.
The lawsuit was filed by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a national nonprofit legal center, on behalf of three individual plaintiffs and a broad coalition of disability groups, including Bronx Independent Living Services; Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled; Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York; Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York; and Harlem Independent Living Center. The law firm Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP is co-counsel with DRA.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of BILS.MTA, a lawsuit filed by DRA in 2016. That case, in which the U.S. government intervened, challenges the MTA’s failure to install an elevator as part of its seven-month closure and renovation of the Middletown Road station in the Bronx. In March 2019, Federal Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled that those renovations triggered accessibility obligations under the ADA regardless of how much those improvements cost. The ruling cast a spotlight on the MTA’s practice of ignoring accessibility during subway station renovations. This lawsuit focuses on the same principle, but as applied by the MTA system-wide.
On June 21, 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.
The Settlement Agreement provides that 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.
- May 15, 2019: