HI my name is Jason Dasilva, I’m an independent filmmaker, I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In 2005, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. At the time, New York City was my playground. Fast forward to today. Walking has become tough for me and I use a scooter to get around. And it’s not so easy. There are a lot of places that I can’t get in. My subway entrance has no elevator, so looping around a seven block radius becomes all after a while. Even though it’s one stop to get to the city, I can’t get there. Or maybe, I just haven’t been trying hard enough.
Today I decided to try an experiment: wheelchair versus no wheel chair. How long does it take to get to Manhattan?
My friend Steve is a good sport so I ask him to time his trip, my neighborhood to my favorite coffee shop in Manhattan. It’s three easy stops on the subway. Take the L to first avenue, to third avenue, and then Union square. Here are my options: 1. bus, 2. Access-a-ride, 3. Subway, and 4. Ferry. Buses are accessible, but in recent years, MTA canceled the only bus service going from my neighborhood to Manhattan, so there’s no bus. I could take New York City’s service for people with disabilities, access a ride, also known as stress-a-ride for its tendency to be late or to miss pickups all together. It has a one-day in advance reservation policy so, if I wanted to take it, I would have had to have booked yesterday. Next option.
Since I can’t get into my subway stop, I can take the B62 bus to the J-M-Z stop at Mercy Avenue. I can take the J-Z to Chambers street where I transfer to the 6. Oh, wait, the map shows that the 6train has an elevator, but the transfer doesn’t. So that won’t work.
Next idea, take the M to Lafayette, transfer to the 6, take the 6 up to Union Square. Oh, but wait, there’s no elevator up to the surface from the 6. So that won’t work.
Last idea. I’ll take the M to west 4th, transfer to the A-C-E, then go to 14th street, transfer to the L, cut back across, oh wait, I can’t tell—is the L accessible to Union Square? From the map, I have no idea. The subways have a long way to go before I can call them accessible.
So that leaves me with my last and best option—the ferry. Steve and I set off at the same time. Steve takes the Bedford L subway, down the stairs, the simple way. To Union Square, back up the stairs, and he’s there. 13 minutes and 5 seconds.
Meanwhile, I’m just getting on the ferry—it comes every hour. The closest ferry stop to Union Square is 34th street. So I take the ferry up, and transfer to the M34 bus. Steve is losing his patience. Then, take another bus to Union Square. I arrive in 1 hour and 43 minutes. By the time I arrive, Steve’s given up on my experiment. Lucky for me, the return isn’t so bad. There’s a brand new service to dispatch an accessible cab, so I take that back to Brooklyn.
So anyways, this is my life. There are a lot of things that New York City does well, but helping their disabled population get around is not one of them. And while I’m waiting for things to change, you can find me here, at home in Williamsburg Brooklyn.