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MTA settles suit on LIRR accessibility to disabled riders at three LI stations

Gina Barbara, 38, of Wantagh, in 2017. She

Gina Barbara, 38, of Wantagh, in 2017. She is one of three disabled LIRR riders who sued the MTA to improve facilities for the disabled at three LIRR stations.   Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The MTA has settled a federal lawsuit filed by three disabled train riders who argued that the Amityville, Copiague and Lindenhurst Long Island Rail Road stations were not accessible to them or in compliance with the Americans with Disability Act.

The agreement, signed on Friday, mandates that the MTA install elevators for the first time at the three LIRR stations. The MTA must also make the station bathrooms handicapped accessible, including installing proper toilet facilities and grab bars; improving waiting room doors to meet proper thresholds and heights, and adding or reconstructing curb cuts and ramps to create accessible routes to the stations, the agreement says.

The work will be overseen by Evan Terry Associates, an architectural firm in Birmingham, Alabama, to confirm compliance with the ADA.

Gina Barbara, 40, of Wantagh, one of three Long Island plaintiffs in the class action case, said the resolution "brings justice" to those who have been unable to use the three Suffolk stations. The plaintiffs will not receive any individual compensation as a result of the settlement.

Barbara, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, has been unable to take the LIRR to visit friends and doctors in Amityville and Lindenhurst, where she previously lived. 

"It should never have come to this," said Barbara, adding that the LIRR has made improvements to all three stations in recent years but refused to install elevators. "People with disabilities are not second class citizens."

The initial repairs and improvements are expected to be completed by September 2021, with a full project completion deadline of June 2023, according to the agreement, although delays could occur due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A cost for the work, which will be included in the MTA’s 2020-2024 capital plan, was not immediately available.

"Accessibility is a priority across the MTA, including the Long Island Rail Road, and accelerating work at the Amityville, Copiague and Lindenhurst stations pushes us several steps closer to making transportation accessible for all of our customers," said MTA spokeswoman Meredith Daniels.

The suit was filed in 2018 by the Suffolk Independent Living Organization of Holtsville, Disability Rights Advocates and members of the Long Island chapter of ADAPT, a national disabled advocacy group.

Suffolk Independent Living Organization Chief Executive Joseph Delgado said the lawsuit was needed to "change the culture" of the MTA and LIRR and how they serve individuals with disabilities.

“They need to recognize that people with disabilities are a large part of their ridership," Delgado said. "This means a total mind change throughout the organization, so that every employee of the MTA and LIRR understands that it is part of daily responsibility to do all they can to accommodate those with disabilities and ensure the entire system is totally accessible for all.”

Attorneys who took the case pro bono said the station improvements will allow thousands of mobility-impaired individuals to access their LIRR stations, providing them with greater independence and transportation options.

“It’s only fair that persons with disabilities have the same access to transportation that many of us take for granted,” said David Abrams, a partner at the law firm of Kasowitz Benson Torres.

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