Opening Acts: December 12, 2014

Settlement Ensures Non-Discrimination in Senior Living Residences and Adult Home Facility

Defendants Pay $297,500 to Resolve Fair Housing Lawsuit

On December 11, 2014, federal Magistrate Ronald L. Ellis signed an agreement to settle a lawsuit filed by the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) against the owners and operators of four senior living residences located in Staten Island, Manhattan, Westchester County, and Rockland County as well as one assisted living/adult home facility in Rockland County. The federal complaint, filed in May 2013, alleged various discriminatory policies and practices based on disability, religion, and race. The allegations in the complaint included, among other things, maintaining a separate dining room for wheelchair users at one site, a prohibition on the use of power wheelchairs at another site, intrusive medical inquiries, questions about the religious practices of potential applicants, as well as the use of only white human models in marketing materials. The complaint was based on a four-month testing investigation conducted by the FHJC in 2012. Defendants named in the complaint included Esplanade Chestnut, LLC, Chestnut Operating Company, LLC, Esplanade Venture Partnership, Esplanade of White Plains Venture Partnership, Palisades Gardens Group, LLC, and Esplanade Staten Island, LLC.

While the defendants denied any wrongdoing, the settlement requires, among other things, that the defendants comply with fair housing laws; adopt policies to prevent future discrimination; obtain fair housing training; prominently market themselves as an equal housing opportunity provider; and pay $297,500 in damages, attorney fees, and costs. Most provisions of the agreement continue for a period of four years. During this time the defendants will maintain certain records and make them available for inspection by the FHJC. These provisions are designed to ensure future compliance with fair housing laws.

The FHJC was represented by Diane L. Houk and Hayley Horowitz with the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, LLP as well as Kevin M. Cremin and Nahid Sorooshyari of MFY Legal Services, Inc.

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “This settlement seeks to ensure that all older persons, including persons with disabilities, receive fair treatment and equal access to housing opportunities at housing sites controlled by the defendants.”

Shop and Help Fight Housing Discrimination 

If you shop on Amazon.com, you have another way to support the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC).  Go to http://smile.amazon.com/ch/20-8681674 and log in as usual or just log in to your existing account at Smile.Amazon.com and search for “Fair Housing Justice Center” in the search bar under “Or pick your own charitable organization.” Once you select the FHJC, shop for the holidays and throughout the year and 0.5% of your eligible purchases will be donated to the FHJC.  Happy shopping and thanks for your support!