Founding Member of the MTA’s Advisory Committee for Transit Accessibility Died Earlier This Year
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officials today joined accessibility advocates and elected officials at the 175 St subway station for the unveiling of a memorial plaque that honors the life and legacy of longtime transit accessibility advocate Edith Prentiss, who died in March at age 69.
Prentiss, who used a wheelchair for the last 25 years of her life, was a daily transit rider and leading voice in the fight to ensure equality and accessibility for people with disabilities in New York City and throughout the transit system.
“Today’s fight for enhanced transit accessibility is built on the advocacy and past fights of people like Edith,” said Quemuel Arroyo, MTA Chief Accessibility Officer. “Edith was at the vanguard of the fight for accessibility, a mentor, and most importantly, a beloved friend. This memorial will serve as a daily reminder to the thousands of riders who use this station every day – Edith’s home station – that we all have the power to be a voice for change.”
“Edith Prentiss was an advocate in the purest sense of the word,” said Sarah Feinberg, Interim New York City Transit President. “Her tenacity and never-back-down attitude made her an iconic leader in the movement to expand accessibility and equity for New Yorkers with disabilities. This plaque is a fitting tribute to a remarkable woman.”
“There was no one quite like Edith. Her impact and legacy are huge, and we all owe her a debt of gratitude for her decades of service and dedication to bettering this city and transit system,” said Sarah Meyer, MTA Chief Customer Officer. “Edith was a shining example of the power simple conversations can have to effect real change. And we hope more people follow in her footsteps.”
“Edith Prentiss was a fierce advocate who left her mark on New York City in so many ways,” said Victor Calise, MTA Board Member and Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. “She championed access to New York City’s public transit system not only for other wheelchair users, but for all people with all types of disabilities. I want to thank the MTA for choosing to pay tribute to Edith with this memorial plaque at the 175th Street station in her long-time neighborhood of Washington Heights and even more importantly, for continuing to honor her legacy with its ongoing progress towards systemwide accessibility.”
"Edith Prentiss was a tireless fighter for improving accessibility to our transit system, and this plaque will serve as a testament to her efforts,” said Andrew Albert, MTA Board Member and Chair of the New York City Transit Riders Council. “Having just 25% of our transit system accessible is unacceptable, but fortunately, voices like Edith’s have been heard, and many improvements are scheduled in the MTA’s Capital Program. We look forward to helping to make that happen."
“I am so proud of the hard work my sister was able to accomplish, and the impact of that work will touch New Yorkers for decades to come,” said Andrew Prentiss, brother of Edith. “I would also like to thank the MTA for today’s event and for this memorial at her favorite subway station, ensuring her legacy will continue to live on.”
Prentiss was a founding member of the Advisory Committee for Transit Accessibility (ACTA), an all-volunteer group of community members committed to working with NYC Transit on a range of accessibility issues with the goal to represent many forms of disability and include persons from across the spectrum of disabilities. She was also a 14-year member of the Transit Riders Council.
Her work with the MTA included advocating for elevators at subway stations, closing platform gaps and educating MTA employees about the challenges for riders with disabilities. Prentiss was passionate about creating accessible art throughout the transit system that was available for everyone to enjoy. She also held a longtime seat on Community Board 12.
Jessica Murray, Ph.D., Chair of the NYCT Advisory Committee for Transit Accessibility said: “It was an honor to know Edith and work with her on the Advisory Committee for Transit Accessibility for New York City Transit, one of many active roles she held in her pursuit for greater access. She was a mentor and friend to countless disabled New Yorkers and deserves this fitting tribute to her memory.”
Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chairman of the Transportation Committee said: “There are only a handful of advocates who were as dedicated and as committed to their mission as Edith Prentiss. Ms. Prentiss was a fearless advocate for the close to 1 million New Yorkers living with a disability. It was an honor to work alongside Edith Prentiss advocating for transit accessibility and within Washington Heights as a constituent. I thank the MTA Chief Accessibility Officer, Quemuel Arroyo for putting together this event honoring the life and legacy of Edith Prentiss and for the work that together with the MTA Chairman and all members at the board are doing to make our stations accessible.”
Gale A. Brewer, Manhattan Borough President said: “Today we name the elevator at 177th Street and Fort Washington Avenue after disability activist Edith Prentiss. Edith was brilliant, took no prisoners, and dispensed with the niceties, but her heart was so generous. She pushed for accessibility on public transportation, and in police stations, restaurants, and public parks, transforming the city.”
City Council Member Helen Rosenthal said: “I was able to write and pass half a dozen pieces of legislation to help the community of those with disabilities. Of course, every single bill had to go past Edith first. And Edith very wisely pointed out all the mistakes in the bill and why I didn’t go far enough. I was so grateful to know that I was learning from the best, so grateful that this legislation would be all that much better because Edith had her hands in it.”
MTA Unveils Memorial in Honor of Transit Accessibility Advocate Edith Prentiss at 175 St Station
Updated July 28, 2021 5:15 p.m.