Sunday, October 11, 2015

Lawsuit Triggered By Long Island Non-Profit Fair Housing Group's Probe Leads To Settlement Between Feds, Real Estate Developer & Architect Resolving Disability Discrimination Allegations In Designing, Constructing Three Rental Housing Complexes

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Brooklyn, New York):
  • Kelly T. Currie, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division, [] announced the filing of a consent judgment and order in United States v. Sayville Development, et al., Civil Action No 07-CV-3622 (JFB/ARL), to settle alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act.

    In its complaint, the United States alleged that defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the design and construction of a rental housing complex for senior citizens on Long Island, New York, called Sayville Commons Apartments.

    Subsequent investigation revealed that the same defendants had designed and constructed two additional complexes, Broadway Knolls Apartments in Holbrook, New York, and Oak Creek Commons Condominiums in Oakdale, New York.[1] All three were developed by defendant Paul Aniboli and designed by defendant Stephen Fellman, an architect. The consent order, which still must be approved the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, provides a comprehensive plan to remedy the violations at the three complexes.

    Litigation in this case revealed hundreds of violations of the Fair Housing Act’s requirement that apartments in the complex be designed and constructed to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Violations include a lack of wheelchair accessible routes between dwelling units and common areas, excessively steep cross slopes and running slopes on such accessible routes, kitchen sinks and ranges that were inaccessible, outlets and thermostats that were too high or too low, and door thresholds that were too high.

    The consent order provides a comprehensive plan to remedy the violations at the three complexes. It requires defendants to perform substantial specific retrofits, including fixing the accessible routes, high door thresholds and out-swinging bathroom doors, inaccessible thermostats and outlets, and inaccessible kitchen ranges. In addition, defendants have agreed to be bound by the terms of the consent order for three years, which provides, in part, that they will complete a Fair Housing Act training course and report to the United States any new construction in which they are involved.

    The consent order also provides for relief for four aggrieved parties, who, due to disability, had difficulty moving about their own apartments or throughout the complex because of the Fair Housing Act violations. Defendants will pay $40,000 toward compensation for the aggrieved parties, including Long Island Housing Services, a non-profit fair housing organization whose investigation led to this lawsuit, a civil penalty, and a retrofit fund to be used for certain retrofits made at a tenant’s request.