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NYC Crip Riders Sue MTA Over Broken Elevators

New York City's Disabled Riders Coalition say they are filing a federal civil rights lawsuit today against the city's Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the New York City Transit Authority. The group claims that long-term elevator outages, such as that at the West 4th Street subway station, violate Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Plaintiffs Michael Harris, Edith Prentiss and Carmelo Gonzalez are all wheechair users; they say they've been unable to use any of the three elevators for over a month.

Attorney Martin Coleman says that the ADA obligates the transit authority to repair broken elevators "in a reasonable manner of time."

A segment which aired last Thursday night on WCBS-TV documented that all three elevators at the West 4th Street subway station has been out of service for over a month. The station booth clerk told CBS 2's Arnold Diaz that she had contacted elevator repair, but that they had simply hung up on her. When contacted by CBS 2, NYCT Director of Public Affairs Charles Seaton said in a statement that they were aware of the situation and anticipated that the elevator would be repaired by the end of November.

Michael Harris, campaign coordinator of the Disabled Riders Coalition, said that two and a half months certainly did not constitute a reasonable period of time. "Disabled riders understand that elevators are mechanical devices and like all mechanical devices break down from time to time," said Harris. "But when mechanical devices break down they are generally promptly repaired. The TA does not seem to have that same philosophy, it just isn't a priority for them."

Harris said that currently 13 subway elevators at the city's 51 accessible stations were out of service, according to New York City Transit's elevator hotline. "Elevators were out of service at such major hubs as Borough Hall, Atlantic Avenue and West 4th Street. For disabled riders, such stations are essential transfer points," said Harris, pointing out that unlike other riders, their transfer options are severely limited. "Such outages deter riders with disabilities from utilizing the system altogether, a situation which is truly sad," he said, adding, "even two elevators at the newest accessible station, 179th Street - Jamaica [F] have been out of service for over a week. It is simply inexcusable."