Opening Acts: February 8, 2019

Luxury Real Estate Developer Sued for Disability Discrimination in New Rental Buildings

FHJC Investigation Documents Inaccessible Features

On February 7, 2019, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) alleging that a top developer of luxury multi-family housing failed to design and construct two rental buildings, one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn, in compliance with accessibility requirements under local, state, and federal fair housing laws. The defendants named in the lawsuit include JDS Development LLC, SHoP Architects LLP, Property Markets Group, Inc., CETRA/CRA Architecture, PLLC, and Werber Management, Inc. JDS Development has extensive holdings in New York City and Miami.

The lawsuit is based on the results of a testing investigation conducted by the FHJC. The complaint alleges that the defendants failed to comply with accessibility requirements in the design and construction of the 760-unit luxury apartment development called the American Copper Buildings located at 626 1st Avenue in Manhattan and at the 51-unit luxury rental building called 202 Eighth Street in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. The FHJC investigation identified numerous features in these buildings that were non-compliant including, but not limited to, narrow entrances to units, doors to bathrooms and bedrooms not sufficiently wide to be usable, a step down into bathrooms, environmental controls in inaccessible locations, a main entrance that required excessive force to enter, mailboxes that were not accessible, terraces with high thresholds, narrow galley kitchens, lack of clear floor space in bathrooms, and narrow entrances to walk-in closets.

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “It is, frankly, obscene that thousands of units continue to be built in the nation’s largest city that are not accessible to people with physical disabilities. It begs the question, when is the City of New York going to start taking responsibility for ensuring that new multifamily buildings fully comply with accessibility requirements in local building codes as well as local, state, and federal fair housing laws?”  Freiberg added, “The City has a duty to affirmatively further fair housing and remove barriers to housing choice, including physical barriers. Accessible housing is not a luxury or merely an option, it is a civil right.”

Inaccessible residential buildings are a widespread problem throughout the City as recently reported in The New York Times.

The lawsuit seeks damages and injunctive relief to stop the discrimination, retrofit the buildings to make them accessible, and take other remedial action to ensure that future housing built by the defendants will be designed and constructed in compliance with fair housing accessibility requirements. FHJC is represented by Mariann Meier Wang and Alice G. Reiter with the law firm of Cuti Hecker Wang LLP.

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