Council OKs subway access incentives 1

The city and MTA hope zoning changes — and big developers — can speed up construction of subway elevators like this one that opened in Astoria this summer.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority now will be enlisting private developers in its effort to make more subway stops handicapped accessible with a zoning change approved by the City Council on Oct. 7.

The Zoning for Accessibility initiative expands the areas where the city can offer incentives to developers of large projects near subway stations who allow easements for elevators, ramps or other accommodations.

When signed or enacted into law by mayoral inaction — Mayor de Blasio supports the bill — it will require developers of large projects that are adjacent to underground or elevated subway lines to consult with the MTA to determine if an access easement and infrastructure are needed.

In return, developers could receive one or more accommodations from the city, such as in increase in allowable density, more floor space, or partial relief from some zoning requirements for things like parking spaces, property line setbacks and landscaping.

In a statement from the MTA, acting Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber said the move will augment the accessibility projects already underway within the agency.

“This initiative reflects Gov. Hochul’s and the MTA’s shared commitment to all New Yorkers — particularly riders with mobility disabilities, seniors and parents of young children — to modernize the entire transit system as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he said. And the help is needed.

Only 136 of the city’s 493 subway stations, or 28 percent, are accessible. In Queens the total is 22 out of 80, or 27.5 percent. That includes the Court Square station, where the No. 7 line is accessible but the G is not; and Rockaway Park-Beach 116th Street, where the A train is accessible only during rush hours. The E and M trains at Court Square-23rd Street are only accessible for Manhattan-bound passengers.

The MTA’s five-year, $5 billion capital plan for 2020-24 includes elevators or other upgrades at 77 more stations, which in theory would leave a rider no more than two stations away from an accessible stop.

The MTA believes working with private developers will get more stations in compliance more quickly, with less strain on the MTA’s seemingly always-challenged budget.

“This is a game changer for millions of New Yorkers,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) said in the press release.

“Zoning for Accessibility will bring much-needed accessibility throughout the New York City subway system,” said José Hernandez, president of the United Spinal Association, NYC Chapter. “This will make getting around with a mobility disability much easier within MTA’s mass transit system. Also, a more accessible transit system will make New York City a much more inclusive city not only for its residents but also for its disabled visitors.”

Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Corona), chairman of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, concurred.

“Whether it’s a senior commuting to get their meals, a person with a disability getting to work, or a family traveling to and from a medical appointment, transit in NYC is an economic and health necessity for so many New Yorkers,” he said in the MTA statement. “Advancing transit accessibility through these zoning rules will help better reflect the needs of New Yorkers and ensure that our city is set up to serve all.”

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