Attorney: L train elevators issue could be settled soon

The elevator to the Union Square subway station on E. 14th at Fourth Ave. is heavily used by parents with baby strollers, seniors, the disabled, people with luggage and others. Two other stops on the L’s Manhattan leg that currently lack elevators are not scheduled to get them under the city’s L shutdown plan. Photo by Lincoln Anderson

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | One part of the community lawsuit against the city’s L-train shutdown plan could be resolved within the week, according to attorney Arthur Schwartz.

“We are close to an agreement on station accessibility in Manhattan,” Schwartz told The Villager. “Big win, but not finalized.”

Schwartz said, at this point, the details of the settlement of that part of the lawsuit are “still confidential.”

In early April, Schwartz — the president of the public-interest law firm Advocates for Justice — sued to stop the L shutdown project on behalf of a coalition of more than a dozen Village and Chelsea block associations, plus two disability-rights groups. Schwartz is also the Village’s elected Democratic district co-leader.

Defendants named in the lawsuit include four government agencies: the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York City Transit and the New York City Department of Transportation, plus the Federal Transportation Administration.

In order to facilitate repairs to the L train’s Sandy-damaged Canarsie Tunnel under the East River, the city hopes to shut down the subway line between Bedford Ave. and 14th St. at Eighth Ave. for 15 months as of April 2019.

However, the community lawsuit charges the agencies failed to conduct an environmental impact statement, or E.I.S., for both the tunnel shutdown and the accompanying mitigation plan; the latter would include turning 14th St. into a car-free “busway,” installing a crosstown two-way bike lane on 13th St., and running an additional 70 to 80 buses — mostly diesel-powered — per hour over the Williamsburg Bridge and through Downtown Manhattan streets to connect to subway stops.

In addition, the suit argues that, under the Americans With Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, elevators should be added to the affected stations.

“Although all the L stations in the shutdown are being upgraded,” Schwartz said in announcing the lawsuit last month, “at least five of these stations will not be made A.D.A.-accessible.”

While elevators are being added to the L train’s First Ave. stop, two Manhattan stations — at Third and Sixth Aves. — still lack handicap accessible lifts and are not currently slated to get them under the plan. At a recent court hearing on the lawsuit, M.T.A. officials assured that they would add the elevators — although only after the entire L project was completed. The Eighth Ave. and Union Square L-train stops already do have elevators.

On May 17, local politicians — including state Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Harvey Epstein and Councilmember Carlina Rivera — joined disabled advocates in a rally outside the L’s Third Ave. station in demanding that the L project include installing elevators there and at the Sixth Ave. stop.

“Less than a quarter of our subway stations are accessible,” Hoylman said of the city’s woeful record on subway accesssibility. “Less than a quarter have elevators. The M.T.A. needs to do better.”

“It’s disgraceful,” Rivera declared.

Schwartz said the part of the lawsuit that concerns the E.I.S. will be argued in August.

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