Elected officials and members of the 504 Democratic Club announced that the MTA subway system will soon be a great deal more accessible for disabled New Yorkers—when the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) finally approves it.
On Saturday morning, Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and the 504 Democratic Club—a disability civil rights organization—joined members of the disabled community on 14th Street and 6th Avenue where they celebrated a big, albeit a slow-moving win for inclusivity.
In 2018 it was announced that L train service would be shut down from Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn to 8th Avenue in Manhattan, undergoing extensive repairs and beautification. However, within this grand plan the creators only allocated the development of one elevator instillation, which was installed on Avenue A, so the 504 Democratic Club and a collation of community groups took this issue to the Federal Court.
After a sit-down with the MTA, a deal was brokered allowing for the installation of four elevators on 14th Street and 6th Avenue—two for the L train and two for the F train—which was to set to start construction by December 31st, 2020. Despite this agreement, the elevator development never took place.
“Everyone should imagine what it is like, not only for people in a wheelchair, but for someone like my own mother, who uses a walker, or someone who is blind, or someone who has arthritic knees and can’t walk on long stairways, to know that they do not have access to the subway system,” said Arthur Schwartz, member of the Advocates for Justice General Counsel and Democratic District Leader.
When the winter came, and the MTA still had not started construction, Schwartz contacted the MTA General Counsel, Tom Quigley, who responded that they had “forgotten the deal.” In order to prevent another day in court, Quigley assured Schwartz that the elevators would be constructed. Now it was just a matter of finding the money to do so. In February 2021, the elevator project was placed into a bid for funding, but the FTA still has yet to approve it.
With the help of Senator Chuck Schumer, who over that past year has secured $14.5 billion for the MTA, they hope to push this issue to the forefront of the FTA’s desk. “The money is there,” Schumer said, explaining that he should know since he himself secured it for the MTA in federal relief.
Schumer stated that portions of the federal relief was intended for modernization projects such as the instillation of elevators on 14th Street. However, as the MTA’s grant application collects dust, Schumer is pushing the FTA to give disabled New Yorkers “a lift” now.
“I’ve been a longtime advocate for disability rights,” Schumer said, “We want to do everything we can to make this happen, so people can get to work, visit a friend—run an errand like everybody else. Today the topic is quite literally about a little lift—the elevator. We need more of them in our subways. We really do.”
Schumer broke down the money he has secured over the past year, including $6.5 billion in the recent COVID relief bill and $8 billion in the last round of aid. He believes that there is more than enough money to put towards capital programs, such as the instillation of elevators like the ones promised to 14th Street and 6th Avenue.
“I say to the FTA, they are to blame here, they are the hold up, stop the stalling, release the money and let’s get these elevators built and that would make New York a better place for everybody,” Schumer said, showing a letter he wrote on March 26th to the Administrator of the FTA Nuria Fernandez.