By Carla Zanoni
UPPER MANHATTAN — A disability advocate who believes that the MTA has not met the needs of disabled 1 train riders in Northern Manhattan filed a class action suit Wednesday against the transit authority.
James Weisman filed the suit on behalf of the United Spinal Association, a disability rights advocacy group, after he learned the MTA's renovation plan for the Dyckman Street Station would not improve accessibility for disabled straphangers.
"Without access to the subway, the MTA makes travel next to impossible for New Yorkers with physical disabilities and prevents them from getting to work or seeking employment," Weisman said in a statement.
The suit alleges that the MTA failed to allot 20 percent of its renovation budget to improving access for the disabled, a federal requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
But the MTA has argued that installing elevators at the Dyckman Street Station would cost $12 million, or 50 percent of the $24 million budget, which means they are not mandated to install them under the disabilities act.
That argument prompted Weisman to declare that there was either something wrong with the Act or the MTA.
"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," he said.
Weisman alleges that accessibility issues in Inwood are especially important, as more than 25 percent of the community's population self-identify as disabled — 5.8 percent more than the general population, according to the 2000 US Census.
According to Weisman, the Dyckman Street Station may be the tip of the iceberg in terms of the MTA neglecting to make mandated changes to subway stations throughout the city.
"Since the story broke NYers are contacting me with more stories about large subway renovation projects that do not include access for people with disabilities," he wrote in an email. "After investigating, we will amend our complaint to include more stations."