Developer Must Increase Accessibility at Three NYC Apartment Communities

A real estate developer and three affiliates have agreed to pay up to $545,000 and to make substantial retrofits at a Manhattan rental complex to improve accessibility and comply with the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), according to a recent announcement by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. The FHA’s accessible design and construction provisions require new multifamily housing complexes constructed after January 1993 to have basic features accessible to persons with disabilities.

“This lawsuit—the 15th of its kind filed in recent years—is another step in our ongoing effort to ensure equal accessibility for New Yorkers with disabilities,” Bharara said in a statement.

The complaint alleged that the 253-unit rental complex was designed and constructed with numerous inaccessible features, including excessively high thresholds interfering with accessible routes in the public and common areas as well as into and within individual units, and insufficient widths, clearance, and clear floor space in bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, and kitchens for maneuvering by people who use wheelchairs. Claims against the community’s architect remain pending.

Under the settlement, the developer agreed to make extensive retrofits at the community to comply with federal fair housing law and make it more accessible to individuals with disabilities. The developer also agreed to arrange for inspections of two additional Manhattan rental complexes and, where necessary, to make retrofits at those properties. In addition, the developer agreed to establish procedures to ensure that its ongoing and future development projects will comply with the FHA’s accessibility requirements.

Finally, the settlement requires the developer to provide up to $500,000 to compensate aggrieved persons and to pay a $45,000 civil penalty. Aggrieved individuals may include those who:

  • Were discouraged from living at the three communities because of the alleged inaccessible features;
  • Have been hurt in any way by the alleged lack of accessible features at the communities;
  • Paid to have a unit at the communities made more accessible to persons with disabilities; or
  • Otherwise were discriminated against because of disability at the communities because of alleged inaccessible design and construction of the properties.