City Council Approves Text Amendment to Encourage Private Investment in Public Transit Accessibility Projects

Image credit: New York City Council.

On October 7, 2021, the City Council voted to approve a new zoning text amendment that would help make public transportation more accessible. The Elevate Transit: Zoning for Accessibility text amendment allows the MTA to leverage private development in order to add elevators or other station access to New York City Transit, Staten Island Railway, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Stations across the city. 

The Zoning for Accessibility amendment was a collaboration between the MTA, the City Council, the Department of City Planning, and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities as a part of the efforts to make the New York City subway system more accessible. Out of the City’s 472 subway stations, only 117 are currently accessible to customers with disabilities via elevators or ramps. Only five of the Staten Island Railway stations are considered ADA-accessible. 

The zoning text amendment creates a requirement that developers of most mid- or high-density sites that are adjacent to subway, Staten Island Railway, Metro-North or Long Island Railroad stations consult with the MTA to determine whether MTA needs an easement for future accessibility projects at the adjacent station. The easement would provide permanent access to a small portion of the property which would allow for fewer barriers to installing accessibility projects. If an easement was required, the developer would receive targeted zoning relief in exchange for the creation of an easement.  The targeted zoning bonus for the easement would include a floor area bonus of up to 20 percent, modified parking requirements, or flexibility with other zoning requirements. 

The goal of the zoning text amendment is to encourage private developers to help offset the costs of installing elevator access to subway stations. The MTA has already committed over $5 billion to find 77 accessible subway, Staten Island Railway, Metro North and Long Island Rail Road projects in its 2020-2024 MTA Capital Plan. 

To read more about the amendment, click here.

Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “Building a recovery for all of us means making public transportation accessible to everyone who rides it – especially seniors, young families, and New Yorkers with mobility disabilities. I’m proud to work across government to drive greater investment in these accessibility improvements, and I look forward to collaborating on more creative ideas to make our city fairer and more equitable.”

Council Member Francisco Moya, Chair of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises stated, “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. 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. This is an example of how agencies across the City and State can partner and deliver for our communities.”

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.