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Opening Acts: June 7, 2021

Settlement Reached in Disability Discrimination Case

LANDLORD TO MODIFY BRONX BUILDING TO MAKE IT ACCESSIBLE

Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced that a settlement was reached in a disability discrimination lawsuit brought against landlord 2020 Grand Realty, LLC by Ms. Debora Ramirez, the primary caregiver of an adult daughter who has multiple physical disabilities.

Under the settlement, the landlord agreed to make several modifications, including construction of an accessible ramp at the Bronx building’s entrance, an entry door that complies with accessibility standards, and a new rolling shower chair for her daughter’s use. The defendant will also pay Ms. Ramirez $14,000 in damages, waive her portion of the rent for one year (valued at $10,848), and pay her attorneys $10,000 in fees. U. S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman so-ordered the settlement on June 4, 2021. The settlement also requires that the owner provide its employees and managing agent with training materials on fair housing laws.

Over the course of a decade, Ms. Ramirez repeatedly requested reasonable modifications be made to the entrance of her building located at 2020 Grand Avenue in the Bronx. The modifications were needed to provide access for her daughter’s custom-made wheelchair. Her requests were repeatedly denied. In 2019, Ms. Ramirez contacted the FHJC seeking assistance.

With funding from FHJC’s Adele Friedman Housing Accessibility Fund, the FHJC retained an architect to prepare a feasibility report for the various modifications being requested. The Fund provides resources to assist income-eligible persons with disabilities who are requesting modifications to their current housing. Ms. Ramirez’s attorneys included details of the architect’s report and recommendations in a final request for modifications in April 2020. The request was denied again, and the lawsuit was filed in  December 2020.

Ms. Ramirez stated, “I had the pleasure to work with Mobilization for Justice and the Fair Housing Justice Center. I am extremely grateful for their perseverance and dedication in ensuring that my family received justice. Throughout the case they kept me informed and did not make any decisions without first discussing it with me. They have given my family hope again.”

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg commented, “Fair housing laws are very clear, when reasonable modification requests are made by persons with disabilities to increase accessibility, New York City housing providers must make and pay for them unless they present an unreasonable financial burden. The failure to grant a reasonable modification request constitutes housing discrimination under fair housing laws.”

Ms. Ramirez is represented by Andrew DarcyOmolola Omoyosi and Tiffany Liston, with Mobilization for Justice, Inc.

FHJC’s assistance in this case was supported with funding from a Private Enforcement Initiative (PEI) grant received from the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).