Opening Acts: April 23, 2018

Westchester Developer to Increase Accessibility at Two Rockland County Apartment Complexes

US ATTORNEY SETTLES DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION CASE

On April 13, 2018, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced that a settlement had been reached in the federal fair housing lawsuit against Ginsburg Development Companies, which was filed in September 2016. The defendant agreed to make retrofits in two apartment complexes in Haverstraw, New York – the Riverside and the Parkside – which combined contain more than 200 housing units. Ginsburg Development has also agreed to establish procedures to ensure that future residential developments will be built in an accessible manner.  The company will also provide up to $125,000 to compensate aggrieved persons and pay a civil penalty of $50,000.

The federal Fair Housing Act requires that new multi-family housing built for first occupancy after January 1991 have accessible and adaptable features for persons with disabilities. The complaint alleged that the two apartment complexes, designed and constructed by Ginsburg Developments, contain a number of inaccessible features, including excessively high thresholds within individual housing units, insufficient clear floor spaces in bathrooms and kitchens, and doors in common areas that are not wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs. The Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) provided evidence of the inaccessible conditions at Riverside and the Parkside to the U.S. Attorney’s Office after a testing investigation was completed in 2016.

“The Fair Housing Act’s accessibility provisions protect people with disabilities wherever they live,” said US Attorney for the Southern District, Geoffrey S. Berman. “Today’s settlement, just one day after the 50th anniversary of the FHA, is part of the Office’s ongoing effort to fulfill the Act’s promise of accessibility throughout the Southern District of New York. All people, with or without physical limitations, should be able to live with dignity in accessible accommodations.”

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “We commend the U.S. Attorney’s office for continuing their work to ensure that developers, architects, and others involved in the design and construction of multi-family housing are fully complying with accessibility requirements under the federal Fair Housing Act.” Freiberg added, “Accessibility is a civil right.”

The settlement also established a fund to provide monetary compensation to aggrieved persons, which includes those who:

  • Were discouraged from living at the Riverside or Parkside because of the lack of accessible features;
  • Have been hurt in any way by the lack of accessible features at Riverside or Parkside;
  • Paid to have an apartment at Riverside or Parkside made more accessible to persons with disabilities; or
  • Otherwise were discriminated against on the basis of disability at Riverside or Parkside 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 http://www.justice.gov/usao/nys/civilrights.html, 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

The mission of the FHJC, a nonprofit civil rights organization, is to eliminate housing discrimination; promote policies and programs to foster open, accessible, and inclusive communities; and strengthen fair housing enforcement in the New York City region.