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Disability Advocate to Alert Feds About Lack of Access at Dyckman 1 Train Station

By Carla Zanoni | July 21, 2010 7:17am

By Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

INWOOD — One week before the 20-year-anniversary of the landmark anti-discrimination Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a disability activist said he plans to file a complaint with the Federal Transit Administration regarding the MTA’s decision to not make the Dyckman 1-train station ADA accessible after its complete reconstruction.

James Weissman, senior vice president and general counsel for the United Spinal Association, a disability rights advocacy group, said he was unsatisfied with a recent conversation with the MTA regarding its reasoning for not implementing an ADA regulation that requires transit agencies to put 20 percent of the total of a renovation toward making a station accessible.

"There is a problem," he said. "Either the regulation doesn’t work because you can’t put in elevators for 20 percent of overall cost or there is no way to enforce this rule."

The Federal Transit Administration did not immediately respond to requests for an interview.

MTA spokeswoman Deirdre Parker said that cost was a driving factor in the agency’s choice, explaining that it would cost $12 million to install elevators, 50 percent of the $24 million it will take to reconstruct the Dyckman station (Parker said the total project, Dyckman and multiple stations north, will cost a total of $47 million).

"Based upon these figures and the guidance of the ADA regulations which requires elevators for alterations unless the cost is disproportionate (i.e. in excess of 20 percent of the cost of the rehabilitation work), it was determined that elevators would not be included in the project," she wrote in an email, adding that the MTA reconstruction will include other features for accessibility, such as "narrowing the gaps between the platform and trains and installing ADA-compliant handrails and warning strips."

But elevators are not the only solution to make a station accessible, according to Washington Heights resident Edith Prentiss, 58. Prentiss has used an electric wheelchair to navigate New York City above ground and below for nearly 20 years.

She said ramps make a station easier to navigate and can help make a station more accessible for people with a host of different physical disabilities.

"I love ramps, the number of people you can put on ramps is amazing," Prentiss said, adding that ramps might not be possible because of space constraints in many of the 1-train stations.

"I would love to think that there is a resolution for Dyckman," she said, "but I doubt there will be."