For many LIRR commuters, climbing stairs to and from a station platform is second nature — one final obstacle to scale before the journey to work or the trip home.
For Raymond Harewood, of Amityville, and many others with limited use of their legs, a stairway at Long Island Rail Road stations without elevators is an obstacle they can’t overcome.
Thursday, Harewood joined state and local leaders, and advocates at the Amityville LIRR station to urge railroad officials to change that.
Harewood and others said installing elevators at the station, as well as three others on the Babylon line — Massapequa Park, Copiague and Lindenhurst — will mean another barrier vanquished and another opportunity provided.
“We’ve heard excuses,” said Harewood, referring to previous failed efforts to get elevators installed. As Harewood spoke, he sat in a metallic-red scooter, festooned with American flags, that he rides to get where he wants to go.
When he is riding the LIRR that is not always easy, he said. The only way he can ride the train starts with a 5-mile trip to the Massapequa station, which has elevators, either by bus or by navigating busy roads on his scooter and risking a breakdown.
State Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford), along with Assemb. Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Wyandanch) and other elected officials and community leaders signed a letter at the news conference addressed to the Long Island Rail Road that called on it to “immediately” devise plans for elevators at the four stations.
“These people are at a significant disadvantage,” Brooks said of riders unable to climb stairs to station platforms. “Our objective is not to throw rocks but to solve the problem.”
The LIRR, in a statement, said 90 percent of its passengers use a station equipped for the “mobility impaired” and “more are on the way.”
“The LIRR takes accessibility very seriously and is constantly striving to improve access for all riders,” the statement said.
Brooks and others said federal and state disability laws obliged the LIRR to install elevators years ago when platforms were raised for new trains. Robert Schoenfeld, 76, of Hempstead, who uses a wheelchair and attended Thursday’s news conference, said the obstacle to installing elevators is “not just dealing with the bureaucrats. People either don’t know or don’t care.”
Amityville Mayor Dennis Siry said the community has raised the issue with LIRR officials in the past but the village has been “left behind.”
Jean-Pierre said regardless of someone’s physical limitations, “public transportation is a fundamental right that should be offered to everyone, our elderly, disabled — and what about mothers with strollers?”