US Attorney joins IRT 6 elevator suit

The Middletown Road station was one of the first five 6 IRT train line stations to open in the Bronx in 1920.
Community News Group/Sarah Valenzuela

The MTA was under fire for an item it left out of its renovation of a train station in Pelham Bay.

On Tuesday, March 13, U.S. Attorney, Geoffrey S. Berman announced the filing of an official complaint in a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the New York City Transit Authority.

The complaint, filed in Manhattan Federal Court, under an existing class action that disability rights advocates filed against the MTA in 2016, charges that the agency failed to install an elevator.

The US Department of Justice alleged the MTA violatied Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act for failure to install an elevator at the Middletown Road station after its renovations were completed in May 2014.

Cosmetic updates and upgrades to the IRT 6 train station started in October 2013.

The renovations received praise by the community and the MTA and included replacement of everything from floors and walls to stairs and lighting, but did not include a device for the handicapped.

As it stands, there are only two IRT 6 train stations in the Bronx with elevators, Pelham Bay Park and Hunts Point Avenue.

“There is no justification for public entities to ignore the requirements of the ADA 28 years after its passage,” said Berman in a statement.

According to the suit, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Transit Authority corresponded with the MTA and NYCTA.

The agreement stood that MTA and NYCTA would install an elevator unless they could prove it was technically not possible or probable.

“The subways system is a vital part of New York City’s transportation system,” continued Berman. “When a station undergoes a complete renovation, MTA and NYCTA must comply with its obligations to make such stations accessible to the maximum extent feasible.”

The FTA determined NYCTA’s analysis of the station was insufficient and there was no excuse not to install one or even two elevators at Middletown Road.

The MTA and NYCTA also asked the FTA for reimbursement for the more than $27 million renovation after completing the work without the elevators, according to the lawsuit.

“The MTA and New York City Transit are committed to adding and maintaining accessibility for the century-old subway system, and working hard to do so by investing more than a billion dollars over the current five-year capital plan alone,” said the MTA in a statement.

“While we can’t comment on specific litigation, the pending civil lawsuit that the US Attorney joined is nearly two years old and concerns a single station,” continued the MTA statement. “We are defending the case on the merits.”

The Middletown Road station was completed alongside renovations at the Castle Hill Avenue IRT 6 train station, which also did not include installation of an elevator.

“This court case has raised the alarm and got the community’s attention to look at the other stations being renovated or were renovated,” said Community Board 10 district manager, Matt Cruz.

Cruz said he also had been looking into whether the 6 train stations at Westchester Square and Castle Hill are required to have ADA compliance, as well.

There are 118 stations citywide that are ADA-accessible with 25 more stations being made accessible under funding already approved, according to an MTA spokesperson.

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at svalenzuela@cnglocal.com.

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