New Yorkers with Disabilities File Class Action to Compel MTA to Address Inaccessible and Dangerous Gaps Between Subway Cars and Platforms

October 25, 2022

Disability Justice, Goldenberg v. MTA, MTA, News

A photo demonstrating the gap between the MTA station and train car entrance.

New York, NY – October 25, 2022 — Three people with disabilities filed a class action lawsuit today against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York County Supreme Court to remedy the excessive gaps between subway platforms and trains. These pervasive gaps render the subway system inaccessible to those who are blind and those with mobility impairments. The gaps are impossible to cross for many who use a wheelchair or other mobility devices and instill overwhelming fears of falling in the gaps for countless others.

Represented by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and pro bono counsel Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello PC, the plaintiffs allege that the MTA is discriminating against people with disabilities by failing to eliminate the gaps, thereby rendering the subway system wholly inaccessible.

“The gaps are unsafe and, for many, insurmountable barriers to riding the subway,” said Christopher Schuyler, senior attorney with the Disability Justice program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “By continuing to neglect this crucial accessibility issue, the MTA is discriminating against would-be riders with disabilities, and generally making the subways more dangerous and less hospitable for all riders.”

“I love the subways because they are an expression of the City,” said Jacquelyn Goldenberg, one of the named plaintiffs. “But like the City, the subway system reflects a deeply problematic attitude towards those with disabilities.”

“I am traumatized by the experience of having my wheelchair get stuck due to the excessive gap between the car and the platform,” said Athena Savides, another named plaintiff. “That feeling of being trapped still gives me anxiety and keeps me from using the subway, and might keep me from ever using the subway in the future, if the gaps are not fixed.”

“I just want the ability to ride the subway without daily fear of injury from something as mundane as getting on and off the train,” said third named plaintiff Emeline Lakrout. “The solutions exist, and the disability community deserves them.”

An accessible subway system means more than simply access from the street to the subway platforms via elevators and ramps. For many people with disabilities, including those who are blind or use wheelchairs and other mobility devices, getting to the platform is meaningless if excessive gaps make it impossible to board or exit the train. Various gap protections have been implemented by mass transit agencies around the country and world– including in New Jersey, Boston, Chicago, Hong Kong, and Australia—yet the MTA continues to ignore this glaring accessibility issue.

“New York City is at the forefront, except when it comes to transit accessibility.  This is an antiquated system that creates hardships for New Yorkers with disabilities,” said Robert J. Anello, Principal at Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello PC.  “The complaint makes plain the legal shortcomings of the City.”

As the City continues to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, the MTA’s ridership has been slow to rebound. An accessible system will invite riders with disabilities, who constitute nearly 15% of the City’s residents, to use the subways. Additionally, a safer and more hospitable system will benefit all riders, including children who could fall into the gaps and those pushing strollers, shopping carts, and other heavy items. In addition to increasing ridership, these accessibility improvements will reduce the strain on the MTA’s paratransit system. Remedying the gaps by adding platform doors will also reduce the recent rash of tragic rider falls onto the tracks.

The subway system is the lifeblood of the City, allowing New Yorkers without disabilities to get to their jobs, school, medical appointments, and social and cultural activities—everything that makes this City great. New Yorkers with disabilities deserve the same access to the subway system. Making the subway system fully accessible by eliminating platform gaps will ensure that New Yorkers and visitors with disabilities can fully participate in rebuilding and enjoying the City.

For access to the complaint, click here.

About New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI)

Founded 45 years ago by leaders of the bar, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest is a community-driven civil rights organization that pursues justice for all New Yorkers through litigation, community organizing, policy advocacy, pro bono service, and education. NYLPI works toward a New York where all people can thrive in their communities, with equal access to mass transportation, quality healthcare, affordable housing, safe jobs, good schools, and healthy neighborhoods. NYLPI’s community-driven approach powers its commitment to civil rights and to disability, health, immigrant, and environmental justice, and NYLPI’s Disability Justice Program advocates extensively for transportation equity for New Yorkers with disabilities.

About Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello PC (MAGIA)

Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello PC is a preeminent litigation boutique in New York City.  For almost 50 years, the firm has been at the forefront of advising companies and individuals on complex disputes and litigating in federal and state courts across the country.  The firm is known for its unparalleled trial experience.  A number of the partners are members of the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers, and many have been recognized nationally.  The firm has a reputation for vigorous advocacy and strategic thinking.  As noted by Chambers & Partners USA, MAGIA is “[t]he first port of call for many corporations and individuals for their most high-profile litigation matters.”

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Contact:

Erin Gaffney
[email protected]
781-738-4221

Susanna Schankler
Director of Marketing
Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello PC
[email protected]
212-880-9424

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