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Opening Acts: March 12, 2021

Disability Discrimination Case Resolved

SETTLEMENT CREATES ACCESSIBLE HOUSING, PREVENTS FUTURE DISCRIMINATION, AND INCLUDES MONETARY RELIEF OF $2.9 MILLION

The Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) has reached a resolution with defendants JDS Development LLC; 616 First Avenue LLC; 202 8th LLC; SHoP Architects LLP; Property Markets Group, Inc. (PMG); Werber Management, Inc., and 202 Park Slope LLC of a disability discrimination case involving two luxury New York City apartment buildings. The complaint, filed by FHJC in June 2019, alleged that the defendants failed to comply with accessibility requirements in the design and construction of the 761-unit American Copper Buildings located at 626 1st Avenue in Manhattan and the 51-unit 202 Eighth Street development in Brooklyn. The lawsuit stemmed from a 2018 testing investigation conducted by the FHJC.

Under the settlement, approved by federal District Court Judge Analisa Torres on March 8, extensive retrofits will be made to the common areas and apartments in both buildings.  In the American Copper Buildings, the agreement requires retrofitting of common areas, including making restrooms fully accessible.  Within dwelling units, retrofitting will lower thresholds, place privacy latches at acceptable heights, create wider door openings and adequate maneuvering spaces throughout the apartments, create clear floor space in bathrooms and kitchens, and make outlets accessible.  In the 202 Eighth Street building, the agreement requires significant common area retrofits along with numerous retrofits to make the dwelling units accessible including remediation of thresholds, door openings, thermostat and outlet locations, and maneuvering spaces. The agreement provides that FHJC will have access to the buildings to inspect all future retrofits. In addition, all defendants agreed to attend FHJC-sponsored training on design and construction requirements and implement future compliance activities.

Defendants JDS, SHoP, and PMG also agreed to pay $2.9 million to resolve the case, the largest monetary settlement obtained by the FHJC to date.

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “The FHJC is very pleased with the outcome in this case.  After long and arduous negotiations, the parties were able to achieve a far-reaching settlement that increases the supply of accessible housing and prevents future discrimination.” Freiberg added, “A portion of the funds paid to the FHJC will be added to FHJC’s Adele Friedman Housing Accessibility Fund which enables income-eligible persons with disabilities to make reasonable modifications to their existing housing units to make the housing accessible.  Funds will also be used to conduct Fair Housing Accessibility Training sessions for builders, developers, architects, and others.  Finally, resources will be devoted to advancing the work of the FHJC in combatting disability discrimination.”

The FHJC was represented by Mariann Meier Wang, Alice. G. Reiter, and Eric Hecker with the law firm of Cuti Hecker Wang LLP. 

The FHJC’s investigation in this case was supported, in part or in whole, 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).

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.