Passengers With Disabilities Challenge Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Long Island Rail Road’s Refusal To Build Station Elevators
Parties call for MTA to install elevators as legally required
New York, New York–April 23, 2019—Today, three Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) passengers with disabilities, together with Suffolk Independent Living Organization (SILO), filed suit against the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the LIRR for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Despite the MTA and LIRR’s touted $5.6 billion modernization program, they have failed to install elevators at the Amityville, Copaigue and Lindenhurst LIRR stations, preventing the plaintiffs, and other disabled individuals like them, and blocking them from accessing and using the LIRR in the neighborhoods in which where they live. An accessible version of the complaint is available below.
In 2016, MTA and LIRR completed their most recent renovations of the Amityville, Copiague, and Lindenhurst stations when it tore out the escalators and replaced them with safer, more reliable, weather-resistant escalators. This triggered a legal duty to make the stations fully accessible to people with mobility disabilities by installing elevators, but the MTA and LIRR failed to do it.
Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) and the Law Offices of James E. Bahamonde filed a federal lawsuit today against the MTA and LIRR on behalf of Raymond Harewood, David Rodriguez, Gina Barbara, and the Suffolk Independent Living Organization, holding the agencies accountable for these violations of the ADA.
Plaintiff Raymond Harewood, a veteran who has a physical disability, lives in North Amityville, but he cannot use the Amityville LIRR station because it lacks an elevator. In 2017, because the elevator at the Massapequa LIRR station was broken, he ended up stranded at the elevated platform of the Amityville station. Walking down the stairs to get to the street level from the elevated train platform caused him excruciating pain with each step, but he had no other alternative. He called 911 to ask the fire squad to rescue his motor scooter.
Plaintiff David Rodriguez, a lifelong resident of Lindenhurst, lives near the Lindenhurst LIRR station and uses a motorized wheelchair. Every year he and his wife go to a show in Manhattan for their anniversary but must travel an additional 3 miles to the Babylon station to board the LIRR. Likewise, Plaintiff Gina Barbara, who had lived in Lindenhurst for more than half of her life, has friends and businesses she visits in Copiague and Lindenhurst. But because these stations do not have elevators, she can go only when someone is available to drive her, limiting her ability to see her doctors or friends or visit local businesses.
In March 2019, in another case brought by DRA against the MTA, Federal Judge Edgardo Ramos of the Southern District of New York ruled that renovations made by the MTA at a subway station in the Bronx triggered accessibility obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act regardless of how much those accessibility improvements cost. “The MTA has a pattern of violating the ADA by not installing elevators when it performs station renovations. This results in a transit system that is largely inaccessible to people with disabilities, making it difficult or impossible for them to get where they need to go. That pattern has to stop,” said Christina Brandt-Young of Disability Rights Advocates.
In commenting on the case, Attorney James Bahamonde stated, “The Americans with Disabilities Act was created nearly 3 decades ago to make sure disabled persons have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. Nonetheless, the MTA and LIRR continue to ignore this obligation. This flagrant violation of the law is unacceptable.”
Joseph Delgado, Executive Director of the Suffolk Independent Living Organization, said “People with disabilities in Suffolk County have to use all sorts of workarounds—Uber, Lyft, paratransit, buses—to take trips that should be simple on the LIRR. Elevators are only fair.”
The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the MTA to build and maintain elevators in the three stations. Plaintiffs do not seek monetary damages.
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 three 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 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.