Sunday, August 16, 2015

'Newly Installed Lobby Doors That Only Open w/ Electronic Key Which We Can't Use On Sabbath, Holy Days Constitues Religious Discrimination Under Fair Housing Act,' Say Orthodox Jewish Tenants In 16-Story, 20-Building NYC Complex

In Rego Park, Queens, the New York Daily News reports: (via The Real Deal (NYC)):
  • Orthodox Jewish tenants at LeFrak City in Queens claim they are being discriminated against because newly installed lobby doors only open with an electronic key — which they cannot use on the Sabbath, a federal lawsuit alleges.

    Sulaymon Ibragimov and Murod Takhalov are suing the LeFrak Organization for alleged religious discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.

    “Halakha, the Jewish law, prohibits Jews from breaking or creating an electric circuit on the Sabbath, and during certain days of observance such as Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Passover,” according to the suit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.

    For a half century, tenants used metal keys to open the lobby doors, but a massive renovation project begun in 2012 has created new religious barriers for hundreds of Jewish families who reside at the 20-building complex in Rego Park, the class-action suit alleges.

    The renovations included new lobby doors that open using an electronic key fob, which is also used to activate lights in the stairwell by using motion and sound detectors.

    Ibragimov, 26, and Takhalov, 45, say they cannot use the elevator on the Sabbath or holy days as well, and the automatic lights also violate religious law for observant Jews.

    “It’s like praying for a miracle to stand outside waiting for someone to come and open the door or someone to use the elevator,” Ibragimov told the Daily News. “I’ve also missed services at my synagogue many, many times.”

    Jewish tenants are forced to stand outside the building in inclement weather “and in the dark of night,” the suit states.

    The final straw occurred when a building manager told him to “Go somewhere else if you don’t like it,” he said.

    “There are rules in every faith and I want LeFrak management to respect every religious belief,” Ibragimov said.

    Their lawyer, Daniel Markowitz, is demanding that the complex install a single door in every building with a regular key lock, and a so-called “Shabbos” or Sabbath elevator, which is programmed to stop on every floor without the rider having to press any buttons on the holy days. That would relieve tenants from having to scale the stairs in the 16-story buildings.

    “It’s not that hard to have a chip installed for a Shabbos elevator, and to give the tenants a key and leave the lights on for 24 hours like they’ve done in the past,” Markowitz said.

    LeFrak City actually has a Jewish center on its campus, but Ibragimov attends a synagogue several blocks away.

    A spokeswoman for the LeFrak Organization said in a statement that the key fob system was installed in compliance with federal Department of Housing and Community Renewal rules and regulations.

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