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NYC says Malaysia Goodson's subway stairs death likely due to medical condition as disabled community rallies in her memory

The New York Daily News - 1/31/2019

Jan. 30--Flower-bearing transit accessibility advocates remembered young mother Malaysia Goodson Wednesday with an emotional moment of silence during a rally to demand more working elevators in city subway stations.

Goodson, 22, was found at the bottom of a set of subway stairs Monday night, with her 1-year-old daughter unharmed nearby -- raising immediate speculation she might have tripped and fallen while struggling with a baby and a stroller.

The cause of death for the Stamford, Conn., woman is still not clear, but the city medical examiner said late Wednesday that initial autopsy results point to a medical episode as the cause of her fall.

"We can state that there is no significant trauma, and this fatality appears to be related to a preexisting medical condition," Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson said in a statement.

Nonetheless, Goodson's tragic death has rallied a community already frustrated to the point of despair with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's lack of accessibility -- and the glacial pace the agency has adopted on promised improvements.

Roughly 30 disability and transit advocates crossed Seventh Ave. at 53rd St. Wednesday in a procession to the northeast entrance of the B/D/E station. They held tulips -- to be placed in Goodson's honor at the subway entrance -- and signs.

"Elevators are for everyone," said one.

Dustin Jones, a disability advocate and a plaintiff in a federal suit against the MTA over its maintenance of elevators, said he identified with Goodson's plight.

"There is no reason why 100% of the MTA subway system should not be accessible," said Jones, who added that he often relies on police officers, firefighters or even strangers to carry him and his chair up and down staircases when no elevators are available.

On the subways Wednesday, riders related with their own struggles trying to maneuver with children through an unforgiving, fast-paced subway system where elevators and ramps are scarce.

"I almost slipped last week on a subway step while I was carrying my grandson," Antoinette Carter, 47, said at Union Sq. "Trying to carry a stroller up a narrow set of stairs is not comfortable, it's not safe."

Diana Espinosa said she's on her own if she's traveling with her young son.

"People almost never help me," she said at Fulton Center. "They don't even stand up on the train, so I don't expect them to help me carry a stroller."

The MTA faces two lawsuits over its handling of station elevators and accessibility. One federal suit alleges that the MTA fails to keep its elevators in working order.

The MTA is in the middle of months-long settlement talks for a state lawsuit alleging the dearth of subway stations with elevators is a violation of the city's Human Rights Law.

Barely a quarter of the subway's 472 stations have elevators.

MTA President Pat Foye, in a statement, vowed to expedite efforts to add another 50 accessible stations, from 118 today, under its next capital program, with funding from congestion pricing, as well as city and state aid.

"Over the course of five years, we will ensure that no rider is further than two stations away from an accessible subway and the ultimate goal is to maximize system accessibility after 15 years," Foye said.

Advocates want a settlement from the MTA that includes a legally binding plan to make the subway more accessible.

The MTA's team has claimed it can't afford such a plan, said Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, a plaintiff in the state suit.

"That's a false choice because we're all paying, and we're already paying," he said. "Malaysia Goodson's family is paying."


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