MTA and LIRR Agree to Install Elevators and Make Other Station Improvements to Resolve Lawsuit Brought by Passengers with Disabilities
NEW YORK, NY – July 13, 2020 – Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), Kasowitz Benson Torres and the Law Offices of James E. Bahamonde are pleased to announce that, on behalf of three plaintiff passengers with disabilities and advocacy organization Self-Initiated Living Options (SILO), the federal court has approved an agreement on July 10 with the MTA and LIRR to resolve a lawsuit alleging they violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to install elevators at three LIRR stations when other significant station improvements were performed. In the agreement, the MTA and LIRR have agreed to install elevators as well as make other essential updates, under the oversight of an independent expert, to bring the Amityville, Copaigue and Lindenhurst LIRR stations into full compliance with the ADA. The MTA and LIRR agreed to plaintiffs’ requests for improvements much sooner than anticipated, without engaging in extensive litigation.
SILO’s Chief Executive Officer Joseph M. Delgado, notes that “the intent of our lawsuits against the MTA and the LIRR is to change the culture of the entire organization on how they provide services to people with disabilities. They need to recognize that people with disabilities are a large part of their ridership. This means a total mind change throughout the organization, so that every employee of the MTA and LIRR understands that it is part of daily responsibility to do all they can to accommodate those with disabilities and ensure the entire system is totally accessible for all.”
The individual plaintiffs, Raymond Harewood, David Rodriguez and Gina Barbara, have for decades been unable to access their neighborhood LIRR stations, forcing them to find other transportation or depend on others for help. These new updates will allow them and thousands of other mobility-disabled individuals to fully access their local stations and provide them with greater independence and transportation options.
“We are thrilled that these three LIRR stations will be fully functional for all riders with mobility disabilities,” said Christina Brandt-Young of Disability Rights Advocates. “We look forward to continuing to work with the MTA and LIRR to ensure there is accessible transportation for all individuals.”
In addition to the installation of elevators at each station, the MTA and LIRR will remediate amenities along the paths of travel within the station, as well as all access barriers at the stations, including parking lots, exterior routes of travel, waiting rooms and bathrooms. Initial remediations are expected to be completed by September 2021, with a full project completion deadline of June 2023. An independent accessibility expert will be reviewing plans for and completion of the updates to confirm compliance with the ADA. These updates are expected to fall under the MTA’s larger 2020-2024 Capital Plan, which includes $54.8 billion of investments in the region’s subways, buses, commuter railroads, bridges and tunnels.
“It’s only fair that persons with disabilities have the same access to transportation that many of us take for granted,” said David J. Abrams, partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres, which has been handling the matter for the plaintiffs pro bono. “I am pleased we were able to come to a swift and amicable resolution with the MTA and LIRR.”
James E. Bahamonde, Esq., a paralyzed wartime veteran who is a wheelchair user himself, said “we are pleased the MTA and LIRR have agreed to remedy the inaccessibility of these stations for passengers with physical disabilities.”
A copy of the agreement can be found here.
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About Disability Rights Advocates (DRA)
Disability Rights Advocates is one of the leading nonprofit disability rights legal centers in the nation. With offices in Berkeley, California and New York City, DRA’s mission is to advance equal rights for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA’s work in New York City has resulted in making half of the City’s yellow taxi fleet accessible to wheelchair users and a federal court order requiring the City to make its voting sites accessible. DRA has several active cases against the MTA, challenging the agency’s failure to install and maintain elevators in subway stations. More information can be found at www.dralegal.org.
About Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP
Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP is a leading national law firm with a core focus on commercial litigation, complemented by strong bankruptcy/restructuring and real estate transactional practices. Kasowitz is known for its creative, aggressive litigators and willingness to take on tough cases. The firm has extensive trial experience and is always trial-ready, representing both plaintiffs and defendants in every area of litigation. Kasowitz is committed to pursuing aggressive and innovative approaches to its clients’ most challenging legal matters. Headquartered in New York City, the firm also has offices in Atlanta, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Washington, DC. For more information, please visit www.kasowitz.com.
About Law Offices of James E. Bahamonde, P.C.
The Law Offices of James E. Bahamonde, PC focuses on disability rights and equal and fair access to housing. Mr. Bahamonde is a paralyzed Marine Corps wartime veteran who has vast experience in prosecuting claims of disability and housing discrimination in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County. More can be found at www.civilrightsNY.com.