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MTA Annual Report Reveals Accessibility Progress Coming Faster and at Reduced Cost

Construction & Development
Updated November 6, 2023 5:15 p.m.
A blue sign with the words "Boarding area" and an icon showing a person in a wheelchair. On a different sign on the left is the same icon and an arrow pointing toward elevators.

Two Projects Currently Under Construction at Queensboro Plaza and 57 Street Station in Manhattan

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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today released its second annual report, “Zoning for Accessibility: 2022-2023 Annual Report,” detailing significant progress made in accessibility improvements across the transit system within the last year. The program is a citywide zoning change that has enabled the MTA to leverage planned private development to improve accessibility across the transit system more quickly while saving taxpayer dollars.

Zoning for Accessibility (ZFA) requires some private developers to design their buildings to incorporate future station accessibility projects and provides incentives to build the improvements themselves at nearby MTA stations in exchange for a zoning bonus. By helping the MTA achieve systemwide accessibility more efficiently, ZFA benefits all New Yorkers, particularly riders with mobility disabilities, seniors, parents of young children, and others who need accessible stations to use the transit system. 

In just its second year, Zoning for Accessibility (ZFA) has spurred improvements at multiple stations including construction at Queensboro Plaza  station in Queens and the 57th Street Station in Manhattan. Both projects are privately funded and constructed with an estimated completion in mid-2025. Construction at Queensboro Plaza station couples an MTA capital initiative with a private developer to achieve two fully accessible street entrances to the station complex to create multiple accessibility points without requiring customers to cross heavily congested Queens Blvd.

“The MTA is using every possible strategy to make the subway system fully accessible, delivering projects five times faster than in the past,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “The latest batch of stations moving forward under ZFA this year join four projects that were accelerated in 2022, the first year of the program, and the 67 stations already included as part of the current Capital Program’s historic $5 billion investment in accessibility.”

“The MTA continues its innovative approach by using programs like Zoning for Accessibility to deliver accessibility projects better, faster, and cheaper,” said MTA Construction & Development President Jamie Torres-Springer. “Partnering with the City and the private sector has allowed us to get more done together as part of the MTA’s commitment to making the system accessible.

“Riders with disabilities, caregivers with strollers, visitors with luggage and many others will soon benefit from this partnership between the city, the MTA, and the private sector,” said MTA Chief Accessibility Officer Quemuel Arroyo. “I am excited about the continued progress on these projects, particularly when they can provide redundant accessibility features, and proud of the team for pushing every opportunity for accessibility improvements."

"I am happy to hear of the construction of new elevators at these busy Midtown stations in my district,” said Senator Liz Kreuger. The expansion of accessibility at these stops is another step toward system-wide ADA compliance for the subway system, which is an essential part of keeping our city a thriving, just place to live for all New Yorkers."

“I applaud the MTA for taking steps towards making the subway system more accessible, including future plans for an elevator to the southbound R train at the Union Street station. For too long, our subways have been inaccessible to people with disabilities, making it difficult to get to work, school, medical appointments and to enjoy the city,” said Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon. “New elevators will not only make our transit system more accessible to people with disabilities, but it will benefit the elderly, people with strollers, and many others.”

“When I was diagnosed with Lupus as a young adult, I learned firsthand how the MTA’s lack of accessibility hampers the ability of so many New Yorkers to get around. While we still have a long way to go, I’m thrilled to see real improvements coming to stations in my community,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif. “Accessibility upgrades to Union Street will enable ridership at one of our neighborhood's busiest train stations. I’m deeply grateful to the MTA for making this long overdue investment and look forward to supporting more like it.”

Since Zoning for Accessibility’s adoption by the New York City Council in October 2021, five total ZFA projects have been approved that will help make adjacent stations accessible:

Beach 36 St Station  in Queens – MTA secured an easement that will facilitate the construction of an elevator at the Manhattan-bound platform.

Queensboro Plaza Station  in Queens – An easement and zoning bonus were approved at 25-01 Queens Plaza North for a future elevator and stair connecting the street to the station’s mezzanine level. Construction of these improvements are in progress with completion estimated by mid-2025.

57 St Station  in Manhattan – The owners of 41 W 57th St received a zoning bonus for providing street and platform elevators at the station. This project is currently under construction with estimated completion by mid-2025.

5 Ave – 53 St Station  in Manhattan – MTA secured an easement at 665 Fifth Avenue for a future elevator connecting the street to the northbound and southbound platforms. Construction of the elevator shaft is currently underway.

Union Street Station in Brooklyn – MTA secured an easement at 204 4th Avenue for a future elevator and stairway connecting the street to the southbound platform.