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Opening Acts: March 5, 2021

Fair Housing Lawsuit Alleges Disability Discrimination

FHJC INVESTIGATION DOCUMENTS INACCESSIBLE FEATURES AT BROOKLYN SKYSCRAPER

Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York alleging that a major New York real estate developer, an architectural firm, and a building owner failed to design and construct a rental building in compliance with accessibility requirements under local, state, and federal fair housing laws. The defendants named in the lawsuit are Amtrust Realty Corp., Woods Bagot Architects, P.C., and 203 Jay St. Associates, LLC.
 
The lawsuit is based on the results of a testing investigation conducted by the FHJC. The complaint alleges that the developers failed to comply with accessibility requirements in the design and construction of The Amberly, a 33-story, 270-unit residential rental building completed in 2019 and located at 120 Nassau Street in Brooklyn. The investigation identified numerous features in the building that are non-compliant, including a lack of a continuous accessible route into and through the apartments, as well as a lack of usable doors, kitchens, and bathrooms.
 
Recognizing the unprecedented projected growth in the aging U.S. population and the severe shortage of accessible housing, Congress passed amendments to the Fair Housing Act in 1988 that included a set of modest accessibility requirements. The law made accessibility a civil right and prescribed that the failure to design and construct multifamily housing after 1991 with certain accessible and adaptable features would constitute unlawful housing discrimination based on disability.
 
FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “Sadly, thirty years after these accessibility requirements were mandated, many developers and architects simply disregard their legal responsibilities and, as a result, inaccessible housing continues to be built with impunity.” Freiberg added, “The only way to stop unlawful housing discrimination is to vigorously enforce fair housing laws. We must ensure that people with disabilities and the growing older population have accessible housing opportunities available to them.”  
 
The lawsuit seeks damages and injunctive relief to stop the discrimination, retrofits of the building to make it accessible, and other remedial action to ensure that future housing built by the defendants will be designed and constructed in compliance with fair housing accessibility requirements. The FHJC is represented by Glen H. Parker, Adam S. Hanski, and Robert G. Hanski with the law firm Parker Hanski LLC.
 
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 enforcement of fair housing laws in the New York City region.