Opening Acts: March 9, 2018

Disability Discrimination Alleged at Manhattan Apartment Building

Defendants Failed to Comply with Fair Housing Accessibility Requirements

Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and a current resident with disabilities who uses a wheelchair filed a federal lawsuit against the owners, builders, and architects of a recently constructed Manhattan apartment building at 535 W. 43rd Street alleging discrimination based on disability. The defendants, CREF 546 44th Street, LLC, Patrinely Group, LLC, and CENTRA/CRI Architecture, PLLC, allegedly designed and constructed the fourteen-story, 280-unit apartment building, which opened for first occupancy in June 2016, in a manner making it inaccessible to people with disabilities. The lawsuit also alleges that the defendants failed to provide reasonable accommodations and modifications to a current tenant with disabilities in violation of fair housing laws.

In response to a complaint received from a tenant with disabilities who uses a wheelchair and resides at 535 W. 43rd, the FHJC conducted a testing investigation in October and November 2017. During the investigation, testers observed that the apartments, common-use areas, and public areas were not accessible to or usable by people with disabilities who use wheelchairs. For example, the testers observed a lack of continuous accessible route into or through the apartments and public or common areas.

Since moving into the building in 2016, the individual plaintiff has been unable to fully use and enjoy his home due to the failure of the defendants to design and construct the building in an accessible manner. The tenant is unable to independently enter the building without assistance from a building employee and struggles to get in and out of his apartment because his front door requires excessive force to open and quickly slams shut. He is also unable to use many of the amenities within the building such as the media room, roof deck, tenant kitchen facilities, and common lounge areas. He has been forced to travel down to the lobby to chaperone and escort visitors up to his apartment, which is a time consuming and difficult process due to his disabilities. Finally, the tenant requested, and defendants failed to provide, a reasonable modification to install an automatic door opener at the front door of the building.

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “The duty to design and construct new multifamily housing in an accessible manner has been part of the federal Fair Housing Act for nearly three decades and yet, sadly, our organization continues to find developers and architects who do not comply with the law.”

The plaintiffs are seeking injunctive and declaratory relief to stop the defendants’ discriminatory behavior and to make all necessary retrofits and modifications to ensure that the building is accessible to people with disabilities, as well as damages and attorneys’ fees. The plaintiffs are represented by Glen H. Parker, Adam S. Hanski, and Robert G. Hanski of Parker Hanski LLC.

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.