Legislation S.5069A/A.4504A Ensures at Least One Member of the MTA’s Board Is an Individual Who Is Transit Dependent Due to a Disability
Builds on MTA’s Historic Steps to Improve Accessibility Under Governor Hochul’s Leadership
Governor Kathy Hochul today signed legislation S.5069A/A.4504A to ensure that at least one member of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Board will be an individual who is transit dependent due to a disability, advancing equity on the Board of the nation’s largest transit system. This action builds on Governor Hochul’s legacy of ensuring representation for transit dependent riders on the governing boards of regional transit authorities across the State.
“For decades, the disability rights movement has said loud and clear: nothing about us without us,” Governor Hochul said. “I'm committed to improving accessibility across the MTA's network of buses, trains and subways. This new law will ensure the disability community has a voice and a seat at the table in deciding the future of transit in New York."
Governor Hochul appointed Dr. John-Ross Rizzo, a nationally recognized leader in rehabilitation medicine and adaptive technology at NYU Langone, to the MTA Board in June 2023. Having suffered vision loss at a young age, he currently provides a critical voice for the disability community on the Board.
Under Governor Hochul’s leadership, the MTA has taken historic steps to improve accessibility throughout the system. The MTA has completed accessibility upgrades at a record pace, and has allocated $5.2 billion of the 2020-2024 capital plan exclusively to accessibility improvements. Additionally, the MTA appointed the first agencywide Chief Accessibility Officer in 2021, who has led the implementation of policies, initiatives and programs that advance accessibility throughout the system.
State Senator Roxanne Persaud said, "Individuals with disabilities live and work all around us, yet they are routinely subject to implicit discrimination through a transportation infrastructure that did not include their voices in its design, and subsequently does not have them in mind in its implementation. By ensuring transit dependent representation on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, however, we can amplify those voices and guarantee they are in mind in the future. I thank the Governor for signing this bill into law and for making the equal participation of individuals with disabilities in our society a priority."
Assemblymember Harvey Epstein said, “People who rely on public transportation will now be guaranteed a voice on the MTA board. People with disabilities face unique challenges with public transportation and often struggle to have access since 75% of the stations are not accessible. This ensures someone on the MTA board will be laser focused on the issue of accessibility and work diligently to solve it thanks to Governor Hochul signing this bill into law.”
MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said, “Under Governor Hochul’s leadership, the MTA has made major progress: our budget is balanced, service is the best in 10 years, and we are building subway accessibility projects faster than ever before. This legislation is another demonstration of the Hochul Administration’s commitment to a transit system that is truly inclusive.”
MTA Chief Accessibility Officer Quemuel Arroyo said, “The more voices on behalf of the disability community, the better. We accomplished this goal long before this legislation, demonstrating how much leadership cares and is listening to the disability community by creating roles and including people like myself and JR that can understand and advocate from within for people with disabilities, and reassure that their concerns are not overlooked because we share their experiences.”
MTA Board Member John-Ross Rizzo said, “It is the privilege of a lifetime to serve the largest transportation system in North America. We have now entered a watershed moment in history as disability-focused technology has matured given advances in mobile computing, artificial intelligence and broadband, affording the promotion of transit equity with unparalleled rigor.”
Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York Executive Director Sharon McLennon-Wier, PH.D., MSEd., CRC, LMHC, said, “The Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY) along with many disability -rights activists settled a global lawsuit in 2022, calling for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to ensure barrier-free access for all travelers including disabled community members utilizing the New York City’s transit system. Legislation such as A4504A and S5069A signed by Governor Hochul will further ensure that at least one member of the MTA’s Board will be a disabled person who is transit dependent due to a disability, advancing equity on the Board of the nation’s largest transit system. This action truly speaks volumes regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion for disabled people living in New York City.”
Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled Executive Director Joe Rappaport said, “Gov. Hochul’s proposal just makes sense, given that disabled people make up about a quarter of New York’s adult population, including more than a million with mobility disabilities. Ideally, the appointee will always be a regular rider with real-life experience in the travails of traveling while disabled on our region’s vast transit system.”