Long Island HOA Agrees To Settle Discrimination Suit Alleging It Failed To Make Wheelchair-Friendly Modifications To Common Areas In 126-Unit Condo Complex When Requested By Mobility-Impaired Resident; Determination Of Non-Profit Fair Housing Group's Damages, Injunctive Relief Remains Pending
- A federal housing discrimination lawsuit against a Westbury condominium has been resolved with the building management agreeing to make changes to accommodate mobility disabilities.
Aimee Farrell, a longtime resident of the 126-unit condominium at 135 Post Ave., alleged in a 2015 lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District that the Westbury Terrace Condominiums had violated the federal Fair Housing Act, the state Human Rights Law and the Nassau County Administrative Code.
The building management has agreed to provide reasonable accommodations so that Farrell can have an “equal opportunity to use and enjoy her home” just like any other resident, according to court documents. Farrell discontinued her claims in December.
Farrell uses a wheelchair, which she said prevented her from accessing many of the building’s common areas. The building’s main entrance and side entries were not wheelchair-accessible, she said in court papers.
When her requests to the building’s board of managers were not addressed in 2014, Farrell contacted Long Island Housing Services,(1) a fair housing agency, for assistance. Farrell filed the lawsuit after she submitted a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights in 2015. The building managers had denied her allegations and initially refused to grant Farrell’s requests for reasonable accommodations, according to court documents.
Farrell agreed to withdraw her claim with the accommodations being made.
“Our interest in getting relief was more important than winning a victory over this condo board,” said Farrell’s attorney Robert Schonfeld, of Garden City-based Moritt, Hock, Hamroff & Horowitz LLP.
The condo management’s attorney A.G. Chancellor III of Melville-based Tromello, McDonnell & Kehoe did not comment on the resolution.
The board agreed to make several changes: installing a wheelchair-accessible lift for the main lobby’s elevator, installing an overnight buzzer system, automating the entrance and exit doors, and installing an emergency backup generator.
Schonfeld said that Farrell was unavailable for comment, but that she likely felt “comfortable” with the litigation’s resolution.
Long Island Housing Services, also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, is still seeking damages and injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination at the building.
Michelle Santantonio, executive director of the agency, said that it investigates as many as 65 allegations of disability-related discrimination annually.
The federal Fair Housing Act, amended in 1988, prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, familial status, national origin and disability.
Schonfeld said that many people don’t assert their rights under the law, perhaps because of a lack of awareness or a fear of intimidation by neighbors.
“Either people are afraid to fight for their rights or they don’t know about their rights,” Schonfeld said.