Friday, October 07, 2011

NIMBY, The ADA, and the MTA

The New York City MTA has frequently failed to adhere to its obligations under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Many of its subway stations are not in compliance, and part of the agency's long term capital construction costs are related to bringing stations it renovates up to standards.

So, what happens when the MTA plans on renovating a station on the Upper East Side? Local residents complain that the station's ADA compliance portion would destroy the fabric of the historic neighborhood.
The MTA is planning to renovate the station at 68th Street/Hunter College as part of a federal requirement to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a presentation made at a Community Board 8 transportation committee meeting on Wednesday night.

An elevator would be added to the northeast corner of 68th Street and Lexington Avenue, and new entrances (just with stairs) would be built on the southwest and southeast corners of East 69th Street and Lexington Avenue.

“It would ruin the fabric of the neighborhood,” East 69th Street resident Nancy Friedman told DNAinfo. “It’s the most beautiful block in the city,” she claimed, describing her street’s carriage houses and townhouses.

Changes to historic districts were usually heavily scrutinized, Friedman added. “We’re not even allowed to change the windows — even on the back of our buildings, and they’re just going to slap this on the block?”

Particularly on the west side of the street, the entrance wasn't needed, she said, because "people to the west don't take the subway. Not to be elitist, but they don't."

The MTA’s plans spurred one man from the ritzy block to accuse the transit agency of using the ADA requirements as a “charade.”

Board members bristled at the accusation, with the committee’s co-chair calling the comment “offensive to disabled people.”

Community Board 8 will put the MTA’s presentation online and solicit responses to provide the MTA. The transportation authority is expected to come back in December with an updated plan.

In support of the MTA’s plans, CB 8 member A. Scott Falk — who said it has taken him up to five minutes to exit that subway when it’s crowded — told the residents at the meeting, “New York City is not a gated community. The whole idea of putting an entrance on 69th Street is going to open you up to marauding down the street seems a bit reactionary.”
This is insanity encapsulated.

The MTA needs to bring its station access up to ADA standards, and that's a costly proposition. When you've got local communities blocking such improvements because they think it's going to increase crime (for a station that already exists mind you), that amounts to nothing more than NIMBY and it also shows that the local community has no regard for the disabled or families that need to rely on the subways for transit.

Subway access for the disabled is far from where it should be, and the agency has been slowly working towards improving the situation. New stations such as at Fulton Street incorporate ADA requirements, and older stations are retrofitted with ramps, elevators, and wider access points but less than half the stations in the system are ADA compliant.

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