A 22-year-old Connecticut woman has reportedly died after a fall down a flight of stairs in a New York City subway station. Malaysia Goodson was trying to carry her 1-year-old baby in a stroller down the subway stairs. The station where Goodson fell is one of the hundreds in New York City that still does not have a functional elevator.
The New York Times reports that Goodson fell around 8 p.m. on Monday night at the Seventh Avenue subway station in Manhattan, which is at 53rd Street. While the medical examiner’s office will determine her cause of death, she was unconscious when officers arrived, the paper reports. Goodson’s infant daughter was found conscious. Per the Times, she was taken to her father and grandmother.
The subject of elevators in New York City subway stations has been a sore one for years with disability advocates; the city has 472 subway stations and only about one-quarter of them are accessible for people who can’t use stairs or escalators. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which oversees the city subways, has pledged to double the pace of elevator installation over the next five years, saying that by 2025, riders with disabilities won’t have to go more than two stops to find an accessible station. (They are not, in other words, pledging to put an elevator in every subway station by that time.)
In the meantime, as anyone who has ever ventured underground can tell you, the elevators that do exist are frequently broken. It is not uncommon to see strangers stop to help a person with a baby stroller carry it down the stairs; it’s even more common to see a person with an infant in a stroller struggling down the stairs alone.
The Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY) is the lead plaintiff in a 2017 pair of state and federal lawsuits brought by a coalition of disability advocates. The suits allege that the MTA’s failure to install elevators is a violation of the New York City Human Rights Law as well as the nation’s Americans with Disabilities Act. (The suits were filed by Disability Rights Advocates, a national nonprofit legal center, and both are ongoing.)
“It is devastating that she died in this way,” Susan Dooha, CIDNY’s executive director, told Jezebel. “And especially because it could’ve been avoided.”
Dooha says CIDNY has had “tremendous support” from parents “who know what it’s like to try to get around the city with kids in strollers. I remember doing it myself and how dangerous I thought it was on a day when I was tired or distracted. It is dangerous, and it’s completely unnecessary.”
Dooha points out, too, that the lack of accessibility in the subway affects a wide variety of people. “It affects mothers carrying strollers, it affects travelers to the city who are carrying luggage and it affects people who don’t yet use a wheelchair or a walker even but are unsteady on their feet or have difficulty lifting their feet as they age, or people who don’t have a lot of stamina to be climbing and descending stairs, as well as people who use walkers, canes, wheelchairs, or scooters.”
Dooha says that the ligitation from disability advocates came after the MTA “failed to have a plan to achieve full accessibility of the subway system.”
“The inaccessibility of the subways is overwhelming citywide,” she says. “And there are consequences.” She points out, for instance, that people in wheelchairs who have to be carried up and down stairs to reach their trains are also in danger of falling. “It is very, very risky.”
We’ve contacted the MTA for comment and will update should we hear back.