Why does death matter more than life in this city?


(re: “More elevators for train stations,” Feb. 7)

Why does death warrant action over life, when life is priceless? After a tragedy, material things can be repaired or replaced, whereas a person cannot.

The letter to the editor from Eric Dinowitz brings up a number of very important points as to the accessibility aspect of mass transit. “The problem is worse in the Bronx, where 83 percent of stations discriminate against the disabled.” As a person with a lifelong disability, I encounter mobility challenges every day presented by public transportation, especially when it comes to the lack of elevators.

It seems that safety is more of a priority than the lack of accessibility faced by people with disabilities since the death of Malaysia Goodson. Why does death prompt change? Fatalities can be prevented by implementing and enforcing existing laws and amending current policy to adapt to the current state of the subway system.

Examples of how tragedies lead to change include Megan’s Law and Amber Alerts. Here in Riverdale, it took more than four decades for a traffic light to be installed at West 246th Street and Broadway. However, it was too little too late. Due to the delay in turning it on, an elderly woman was hit by a car and tragically died in November 2016. If it had been installed in a timely manner, this death would not have occurred.

Nearly 30 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act, progress has been made. Technology moves at lightning speed while advancements in accessibility move in slow motion. It’s time for the MTA to “roll” into the 21st century. Safety and functionality are compromised as the state refuses to appropriate the funds needed to overhaul the transit system.

In his 2019 State of the State address, the governor inferred that previous administrations are at fault for the current systemic breakdown with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. However, since his first term, he has failed to address the state of the MTA.

As per a legal loophole from 1994, the MTA was permitted to circumvent the ADA. The settlement specified that only 100 “key stations” were to be deemed accessible by 2020. Major renovations, such as the West 238th Street station stairs, would have been prime opportunity to put in elevators.

On March 5, a federal judge ruled that New York City’s transit authority violated federal disability law when it replaced a subway station’s stairs without installing an elevator. The ruling followed the U.S. Justice Department’s joining the lawsuit in March 2018.

As acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman stated, “There is no justification for public entities to ignore the requirements of the ADA 28 years after its passage.”

As per the MTA, there are 57 bus routes for the 675,000 riders. That number does not align with current ridership. I have addressed other accessibility issues with respect to buses previously. During the Bronx bus network redesign meeting at Christ Church Riverdale last October, I suggested that there should be Select Bus Service on the Bx9 line, and that there should be charging ports for wheelchairs on buses.

Last November, MTA president Andy Byford held a “community conversation” in the Bronx, where he pledged to double the number of elevators as part of the Fast Forward initiative. I appreciate his vision of accessibility.

At a meet-and-greet on March 22 with group station manager Lawrence Brigandi at the West 231st Street subway station, he mentioned that the MTA is working on how to raise subway platforms to make it easier for wheelchairs to enter cars. I suggested the addition of handlebars at wheelchair level for stability and support.

Furthermore, when mass transit experiences delays, service changes, accidents and construction, they are reported during news broadcasts. However, there are no such alerts when there are elevator outages.

Updates have been made in increments. The Mayor’s Office for People With Disabilities was established in 1973. In 1984, a lawsuit was settled when then Gov. Mario Cuomo made a deal with Mayor Ed Koch to make 50 subway stations accessible.

Change has taken decades on all levels of government. On the federal level, it has been nearly 29 years since the enactment of the ADA, on the state level 35 years (dating from the 1984 lawsuit), and on the city level, 29 years from 1973 until 2002 when the first commissioner for MOPD was appointed. It took 35 years for the MTA to appoint accessibility chief Alex Elegudin last June.

Even with these major advances, the city is still not entirely complaint with ADA.

We do we have to wait so long? The disabled population, as well as the elderly population, will only continue to grow. As I said in an October 2017 story in The Riverdale Press, “everyone should have access to everything that’s available. I know things are getting there, but how long do you have to wait for it?”

Iffat Mahmud-Khan,