In an effort to extend accessibility within the subway system, the MTA and town are teaming as much as encourage builders of recent websites to construct extra elevators close to subway stations.
The town needs to not solely sweeten an current incentive, but additionally drive builders to point out their plans to the MTA earlier than development begins. The purpose is to make sure there might be area for elevators sooner or later, if the MTA ought to ever determine to put in them.
“That is one other software for expediting our advance towards full system extensive accessibility,” Janno Lieber, president of MTA Development & Improvement, mentioned Friday.
The proposed adjustments to town’s zoning codes require approval from each the Metropolis Council and town’s planning fee.
It already has the backing of the Metropolis Planning Director Marsia Lago, who appeared with Lieber on Friday to announce the proposal.
“Whereas New York Metropolis is unlikely ever to be an excellent simple city to reside in, this zoning textual content modification guarantees to make our metropolis a fairer place,” she mentioned.
The plan, formally referred to as Zoning for Accessibility, would require any developer whose venture is adjoining to a subway station in a excessive density space to satisfy with the MTA, to determine if area on their property must be accessed by the MTA to construct a future elevator. The town might then provide “zoning aid” to the contractor for allocating area, which could embrace modified parking necessities or flexibility with different zoning points.
If the developer builds an elevator, as an alternative of the MTA, they might obtain a 20% “density bonus” which might permit them to increase their allotted footprint or offset the prices of their venture.
But it surely’s not clear this can be a change builders would welcome proper now.
“Over the previous two years we’ve got labored with the MTA to cut back the time and price to builders of assembly their necessities for constructing close to their operations,” Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York Metropolis, wrote to Gothamist/WNYC.
“If the MTA is profitable in implementing the reforms— comparable to lowering the time to get an MTA approval for a constructing allow from so long as seven years to underneath a yr, they will demand extra from non-public builders such because the elevated elevator necessities,” she acknowledged. “If the forms shouldn’t be capable of streamline its efficiency, it is going to be troublesome to demand any extras, particularly with the financial uncertainty town faces because of the pandemic.”
Metropolis council management is extra amenable to the adjustments. The proposal has the backing of Speaker Corey Johnson, in addition to the chair of the transportation committee, Ydanis Rodriguez.
“We’re in determined want of systemwide accessibility inside our subways. As subway ridership continues to steadily improve we’d like to ensure we’re accommodating for all people with disabilities,” Rodriguez wrote in a press release offered by the MTA.
“I’ll proceed to work alongside Quemuel Arroyo, Chief Accessibility Officer, the management of the MTA, my colleagues on the council, and advocates to make sure we make each subway station totally accessible.”
In 2020 the MTA accomplished renovating 11 stations, making them compliant with the Individuals with Disabilities Act. The company says that was probably the most new elevators put in in a single yr. The purpose for 2021 is to create eight extra accessible stations.
“That is going to be the brand new regular on the MTA,” development chief Lieber mentioned. “We have now to maintain delivering accessibility initiatives at an unprecedented fee.”
The MTA’s $51.5 billion capital plan contains $5.2 billion for creating 70 accessible stations.
Whereas the funding for the plan remains to be reliant on congestion pricing, and different state taxes, which the governor is at the moment contemplating diverting for different state wants, Lieber is assured that with current assist from the federal authorities, and the opportunity of extra federal funding, this dedication might be met.
If not, the brand new zoning adjustments might at the very least assist push a couple of initiatives ahead.
Regardless of the dedication to accessibility, the MTA continues to struggle a number of lawsuits in court docket claiming the MTA is in violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Act and New York Metropolis Human Rights legislation as a result of it renovated complete stations previously with out including elevators, and failed to keep up its current elevators. That is why some incapacity rights advocates stay skeptical in regards to the newest proposal.
“My concern is the MTA tries to behave like they’re on our facet however they don’t seem to be, the MTA spends a big amount of cash attempting to struggle our entry concern,” Dustin Jones, President & Founding father of United For Equal Entry NY, wrote to Gothamist/WNYC.
“Once they do one thing they do not embrace us they take the one two individuals in wheelchairs who work for them, they are saying one thing and make it seem to be we’re all on the identical web page. Why not make a proposal communicate your thoughts after which have somebody from the neighborhood who’s nicely revered again it up,” he mentioned, referring to MTA board member Victor Calise and MTA Chief Accessibility Officer, Quemuel Arroyo who spoke at a press convention Friday.
The zoning proposal might be open to public evaluation beginning Monday.