Brooklyn Boro

MTA to partner with private developers for more subway-station elevators

Disabled-accessibility plan keys on zoning incentives

April 4, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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At Brooklyn’s Hoyt-Schermerhorn Streets subway station on Friday, the MTA announced “Elevate Transit: Zoning for Accessibility,” a program to partner with private developers to design their buildings to include new elevators, new entrances and other accessible features leading to subway stations.

Briefly speaking, the developers who include elevators and other accessibility improvements would get the right to build denser, or higher, buildings than they would normally able to build under zoning restrictions. In the highest-density district, this “density bonus” to offset the cost of construction could be as much as 20 percent.

In return, the builders would have to provide an easement, or permanent access to a piece of property that would give the MTA access to work at the site. Because the access that the easement provides, the city would be spared the huge costs of temporarily relocating underground pipes, cables and so on, according to the MTA.

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The city’s “transit improvement bonus,” as it’s known, is currently available only in a few relatively small areas, mainly in Manhattan. But the MTA’s new incentive would expand it to other high-density areas throughout the city, such as Downtown Brooklyn.

“This is a unique collaboration between the city, the MTA and the disability rights community,” said MTA Construction and Development President Janno Lieber at the news conference.

Last year, the MTA opened 11 subway elevators throughout the city and signed contracts to build another eight each September, he added.

MTA Chief Accessibility Officer Quemuel Arroyo, whom Lieber called “Q,” applauded the progress that has been made so far, but he added that “Out of the subway system’s 472 stations, only 171 have elevators. Out of the Staten Island Railroad’s 21 stations, only five have elevators.” More elevators in the system would help “seniors, parents who use strollers, and wheelchair users like me,” he said.

As mentioned above, the new plan will require developers of sites adjacent to subway, Staten Island Railway, Long Island Rail Road, and Metro-North Railroad stations within New York City to consult with the MTA first to determine whether the MTA needs an easement for future accessibility projects at the adjacent station.

If the MTA determines an easement is necessary, the developer would receive targeted zoning relief to compensate for the space needed for the easement.

Subway elevators and escalators, and subway-station entrances, within private developers are not new. There is such an elevator at Barclays Center that is owned by BSE Global which owns and manages the sports complex itself. Another is the elevator at Hoyt-Schermerhorn itself, which played a central part in Friday’s press conference. It was built in 2018 by Rose Associates, which at the time was constructing a residential tower next to the station.

The announcement was also sponsored by the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities and the NYC Department of City Planning. The Hoyt-Schermerhorn Streets station serves the A, C and G lines.

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