Opening Acts: January 18, 2017

Developer Pays $1.1 Million to Resolve Lawsuit and Enhance Accessibility at Three Manhattan Apartment Buildings

Design and Construction Case Filed by U.S. Attorney Stemmed from FHJC Testing Investigation

On January 13, 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced that a settlement with Silverstein Properties, Inc. and two of its affiliates, River Place I, LLC and River Place II Holding, LLC. Under the settlement signed by U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick, the defendants agreed to retrofit two large rental complexes in Manhattan, One River Place and Silver Towers, to make them more accessible to persons with disabilities.  Silverstein Properties also agreed to inspect, and where necessary, retrofit a third Manhattan apartment building, One Freedom Tower.  The three buildings covered under this agreement contain more than 2,400 apartments.  Additionally, Silverstein Properties has agreed to adopt procedures to ensure that future developments comply with the accessibility requirements under the federal Fair Housing Act.  Finally, Silverstein Properties has agreed to provide up to $960,000 to compensate aggrieved persons and pay a civil penalty of $50,000.

The inaccessible conditions at One River Place were brought to the attention of the U.S. Attorney’s Office as a result of a testing investigation conducted by the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) in 2006.  According to the allegations in the complaint, One River Place and Silver Towers were 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 through dwelling units; insufficient space in bathrooms and kitchens for people using wheelchairs; and bathroom configurations preventing the installation of grab bars.

In a news release, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “This lawsuit demonstrates our commitment to fulfilling for all New Yorkers the promise of the Fair Housing Act — that people with disabilities have the same access to housing as everyone else.”  FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg commented, “We applaud the U.S. Attorney’s Office for enforcing the Fair Housing Act’s accessibility requirements and expanding housing opportunities for New Yorkers with disabilities.”

The government’s lawsuit also asserts a claim against the architect of One River Place and Silver Towers, Costas Kondylis & Partners, LLP and those claims are still pending.

The settlement provides a mechanism for aggrieved persons to make claims for monetary compensation if any of the following injuries occurred at One River Place, Silver Towers, or One Freedom Tower:

  • Injured by the lack of accessible features at any of the three buildings;
  • Discouraged from living at any of the three buildings;
  • Required to pay to have an apartment made accessible at any of the three buildings;
  • Prevented from having visitors because of a lack of accessible features at any of the three buildings; or
  • Otherwise injured or discriminated against on the basis of disability due to the design and construction of any of the three buildings.

People who may be entitled to compensation should file a claim by contacting the Civil Rights Complaint Line at (212) 637-0840, using a Civil Rights Complaint Form available from the U.S. Attorney’s Office website at 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, NY 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.