By Jonathan Sperling
Sunnyside, Woodhaven and Astoria all boast access to various subway lines, but those transit options are little help to many residents with disabilities. Not a single subway station complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act in the three Queens neighborhoods.
Those neighborhoods are not unique. More than 70 percent of Queens subway stations are inaccessible to people with disabilities, according to the MTA’s own guide to accessible transit options.
Only 19 Queens subway stations are fully ADA-compliant, while the Mets-Willets Point station on the No.7 line is partially accessible via the northbound platform. Most of the accessible stations have an elevator, though some are simply located at the street level, such as Middle Village-Metropolitan Avenue stop on the M line.
In Sunnyside, where the No. 7 train makes stops at 40th Street and 52nd Street, station access is only available via steep staircases. The three stops on the J/Z line in Woodhaven — 75th Street-Elderts Lane, 85th Street-Forest Parkway and Woodhaven Boulevard — also do not offer ADA-compliance.
The lack of ADA-compliance along Astoria’s N/W line was recently the subject of a lawsuit filed by the nonprofit group Disability Rights Advocates on behalf of a Long Island City woman who uses a walker.
Plaintiffs in the suit contend that the MTA constructed a new staircase connecting a station mezzanine to the street at the 30th Avenue subway station without providing stair-free access, causing individuals with disabilities to risk injury when entering stations. Lisa Forsee, a Long Island City resident who uses a walker, walking cart or two canes for mobility, is one of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit.
Hope may be on the horizon, however. The MTA announced in 2018 that it had approved more than a dozen ADA accessibility projects as part of its 2015-2019 capital plan. The Astoria Boulevard station in Astoria, the Woodhaven Boulevard station in Woodhaven and the G train section of the Court Square station in Long Island City were listed among the stations promised to be made ADA accessible. The Astoria Boulevard station closed in March 2019 and will reopen with four ADA-compliant elevators by the end of this year, according to the MTA.
“We are putting an increased focus on accessibility with all of our planning moving forward, and this plan amendment is a direct result of that promise,” said then-MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota in a statement. “We have a lot more work to do but this plan amendment — as well as our Board working group on accessibility and the commitment of NYC Transit President Andy Byford — demonstrate our commitment to accessibility for all of our customers.”