Sunday, March 19, 2017

NYC Feds Squeeze Another Developer/Landlord On Allegations Of Fair Housing Violations; Defendant Agrees To Fork Over Up To $500K To Compensate Aggrieved Persons & Retrofit Over 800 Rental Units As Needed To Increase Accessibility For Persons With Disabilities

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (New York City):
  • Preet Bharara, the [now-former] United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced [on February 14] that the United States has settled a federal civil rights lawsuit against ALBANESE ORGANIZATION, INC. (“ALBANESE”) and three of its affiliates, [...] , by consent decree.

    Under the settlement, ALBANESE has agreed to make retrofits at The Verdesian, a rental complex located at 211 North End Avenue in Manhattan, in order to comply with the federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) and make The Verdesian more accessible to individuals with disabilities. The DEVELOPER DEFENDANTS also have agreed to inspect two additional rental complexes in Manhattan, The Solaire and The Vanguard Chelsea, and, where necessary, make retrofits at those buildings as well.

    Additionally, ALBANESE commits in the consent decree to establish procedures to ensure that its ongoing and future development projects will comply with the accessibility requirements of the FHA. Finally, as part of the consent decree, the DEVELOPER DEFENDANTS have agreed to provide up to $500,000 to compensate aggrieved persons and pay a civil penalty of $45,000.(1)
    ***
    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.

    According to the allegations in the Complaint, Verdesian, a rental complex with 253 rental units, 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.
    ***
    Together, The Verdesian, The Solaire, and The Vanguard Chelsea contain more than 800 rental apartments.
    ***
    The government’s lawsuit also asserts claims against the architect of The Verdesian, SLCE Architects, LLP. Those claims remain pending.
Source: U.S. Attorney Files Suit And Reaches Agreement With Real Estate Developer To Increase Accessibility At Three Manhattan Apartment Buildings.
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(1) According to the settlement, aggrieved individuals that may be entitled to monetary compensation from the fund created through the settlement include those who:
  • Were discouraged from living at The Verdesian, Vanguard Chelsea, or The Solaire because of the lack of accessible features;
  • Have been hurt in any way by the lack of accessible features at The Verdesian, Vanguard Chelsea, or The Solaire;
  • Paid to have an apartment at The Verdesian, Vanguard Chelsea, or The Solaire made more accessible to persons with disabilities; or
  • Otherwise were discriminated against on the basis of disability at The Verdesian, Vanguard Chelsea, or The Solaire as a result of the inaccessible design and construction of the properties.
Any individual who may be entitled to compensation should file a claim by contacting the Civil Rights Complaint Line at (212) 637-0840, using the Civil Rights Complaint Form available on the United States Attorney’s Office’s website, or by sending a written claim to:

U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York
86 Chambers Street, 3rd Floor
New York, New York 10007
Attention: Chief, Civil Rights Unit

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