Edith Prentiss was tough, and boy was she a force to be reckoned with when she was battling for the rights of New Yorkers with disabilities.
"She was outspoken and she just didn't take any guff from anybody," said her friend and fellow advocate Joe Rappaport. Rappaport is the executive director of the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled.
Prentiss was a legendary fighter perhaps because she new what it was like to be abled-bodied. She began using a wheelchair 25 years ago because of severe asthma and other debilitating health conditions. She then dueled with policymakers over the lack of accessibility to parks, taxis, police precincts, and most especially public transportation.
"She fought for elevators, ramps. She was interested in the gaps between platforms and trains," said Andrew Albert, chairperson of the NYC Transit Riders Council.
Prentiss was relentless in her advocacy. Some of those fights came by the way of lawsuits.
Lisa Daglian, of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA said, "A lot of the issues that she raised, because she experienced them, led to better changes,” adding “better changes and a better experience for all riders."
Daglian, who is the executive director of the Advisory Committee, says Prentiss's advocacy impacted city buses, the subway system, Long Island Rail Road and Metro North as well.
She battled on behalf of the disability community right up until she passed away this week. Her family said the 69-year-old died at her home in Washington Heights of natural causes.
The news was a devastating blow to the community and those who worked tirelessly with her for change.
She ran several community and advocacy groups and she was a longtime member Community Board 12.
"The reason we'll miss her is because she was a force, a force for good and she called people put when they didn't pay attention to the needs of our community," said Rappaport.
After her death there was an out pouring of tributes from advocates and local leaders, including the mayor.
The support has touched her family on Long Island where she grew up, especially her brother.
"I knew she did stuff for the disabled and messed around with the city government, but I never realized how much of a voice she was in the city and how she was loved by everyone," said Andrew Prentiss. "I'm just incredibly proud of her."
Prentiss is survived by her five brothers, nieces, nephews, a grandniece and a grandnephew. Her funeral will be private, but her family is planning a memorial later this year.