A 22-year-old mother died after she fell down the stairs of a midtown subway station with her 1-year-old daughter on Monday night, police said.
Malaysia Goodson’s death in the elevator-free Seventh Avenue B/D/E station resonated throughout the city, drawing outrage from elected officials and advocates over the inaccessibility of the subway system.
“She wanted to get her life together,” said her aunt Christina Daniels, 44, of the Bronx, adding that Goodson was a “happy-go-lucky person.”
Goodson, of Stamford, Connecticut, was with her daughter and a stroller when she fell at the station on West 53rd Street at about 8 p.m., cops said. The girl was not hurt, but Goodson was found unconscious. Police said Wednesday that it was not immediately clear if the little girl was inside the stroller at the time of the fall. Witnesses told investigators that the girl was found next to Goodson.
She was taken to Mt. Sinai West, where she was pronounced dead. The girl was reunited with family members, police said.
Whether Goodson tripped or had a medical episode was under investigation, an NYPD spokesman said. The city’s medical examiner will determine her cause of death.
“The lack of accessibility in our subways is literally killing people,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said Tuesday in a statement on Twitter. “I am heartbroken by this tragedy, and am keeping this family in my thoughts. NYC must do more for families and the disabled.”
Only 118 stations, roughly a quarter in the MTA’s subway system, are accessible via an elevator, straining the commutes of potentially hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. The city includes roughly 200,000 mobility-impaired residents as well as another 340,000 seniors and 200,000 children below the age of five, according to a recent report from the city comptroller’s office.
Mayor Bill de Blasio echoed Johnson’s statements, calling Goodson’s death a “heartbreaking tragedy that never should have happened.”
“The subway system is not accessible for everyone and that’s an environment the MTA should not allow,” de Blasio tweeted.
The few subway elevators the MTA does have are frequently broken down — more often than in systems in other cities like Boston and Chicago, advocacy groups like TransitCenter have pointed out. For decades, the authority has been pressured to increase its number of accessible stations, but until recently it did the “bare minimum” to do so, according to Colin Wright, a senior advocacy associate at TransitCenter.
“Safety and accessibility is not a nicety to have; it’s an absolute essential part of the subway system. And it needs to be treated like a top priority,” Wright said. “It shouldn’t take a death to bring attention to this issue. It’s been an issue for a long time and it’s past time for the MTA to address it.”
Over the past few years, the MTA has been criticized for focusing on delivering cosmetic improvements to stations through an effort known as the Enhanced Station Initiative, which was unveiled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, without also improving wheelchair access.
Danny Pearlstein, a spokesman at the nonprofit Riders Alliance, said the station’s two-platform configuration could have commuters with strollers traveling up as many as four flights of stairs to get out. He described Goodson’s death as “appalling” and an “utter failure” on behalf of the MTA.
“At some point in every New Yorker’s life, each of us needs an elevator,” he added.
Cuomo’s office deferred comment to the authority.
Wright and Pearlstein said the focus should now be trained on Cuomo and state lawmakers. NYC Transit president Andy Byford made accessibility a top priority in his Fast Forward plan, released in May, which details a 10-year blueprint to modernize the city’s transit system and includes a proposal to dramatically increase elevator access at subway stations. That plan remains unfunded.
A preliminary MTA investigation Monday night found that the stairs, railing and floor where Goodson fell were in good condition, MTA spokesman Shams Tarek said in a statement.
“This is an absolutely heartbreaking incident,” Tarek said. “While the ultimate cause of the event is being investigated by the MTA, medical examiner and the NYPD, we know how important it is to improve accessibility in our system, The Fast Forward Plan acknowledges and prioritizes this work as one of four key priorities, and aims to ensure that riders will never be more than two stops away from a station with an elevator.”
With Mark Chiusano