Elevate Transit: Zoning for Accessibility, a joint venture between the MTA, Department of City Planning, and Mayor’s Office for Disability, aims to incentivize private developers to increase the rate of renovation for accessible stations throughout the five boroughs.
“The initiative is going to further bolster the MTA’s historic $5.2 billion commitment to accessibility by leveraging private development to bring system wide accessibility faster and cheaper for New York taxpayers,” said Janno Lieber, MTA Construction and Development president, outside the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station in Downtown Brooklyn. “Even during the pandemic, when our capital program was decimated by the collapse of the MTA’s ridership, we maintained work on accessibility.”
The MTA updated 11 stations in 2020 to make them ADA accessible, the most accessibility renovations the agency has completed in a single year. They currently plan on completing nine renovations in 2021, with more scheduled for future years as a part of the MTA’s current Capital Plan, which lasts through 2024.
However, Lieber was clear that the MTA cannot rest on its laurels.
“Zoning for Accessibility is one of the tools that will help us make progress at an even faster rate,” he continued. “We are going to work with developers to set aside space in their buildings that are being built to allow accessible entrances and improvements to be included, or for developers to actually include elevators and other improvements in their buildings at no cost to the MTA. It is going to be a game changer.”
Quemuel Arroyo, the MTA’s chief accessibility officer, noted that only 132 of the MTA’s 472 stations are currently ADA accessible. Zoning for Accessibility is meant to help not only New York’s disabled community, but also older residents, and parents with strollers.
“Zoning for Accessibility will make it possible to advance the effort for citywide zoning changes and to allow the MTA to leverage private developer partnerships to achieve a 100 percent accessible transit system,” Arroyo explained.
The zoning text amendment was review by the City Council this week. However, partnerships with private developers are already underway at stations throughout the city.
Marisa Lago, director of the Department of City Planning, used renovations at the Broad Street J and Z station in Manhattan as an example of a successful private/public partnership.
“While New York City is unlikely to be a super easy town to live in,” Lago said, “this zoning text amendment promises to make our city a fairer place.”