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Opening Acts: May 27, 2020

Lawsuit Alleges Disability Discrimination

FHJC INVESTIGATION FINDS INACCESSIBLE FEATURES AT THREE WESTCHESTER APARTMENT BUILDINGS

Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York alleging that companies responsible for the design and construction of three apartment buildings located in Westchester County failed to comply with federal and state accessibility requirements. The defendants named in the lawsuit are Lighthouse Living LLC; Lighthouse Living Management LLC; Lighthouse Living Realty, LLC; J&J Management Services LLC; and Papp Architects, P.C.

The lawsuit is based on the results of a testing investigation conducted by the FHJC in late 2018.  The complaint alleges that the developers and architects engaged in disability discrimination by failing to comply with accessibility requirements in the design and construction of One Dekalb, a 6-story, 76-unit rental building located at One Dekalb Avenue in White Plains, New York; The Light House, a 5-story, 50-unit rental building located at 120 Pearl Street in Port Chester, New York; and The Wood Works, a 5-story, 36-unit rental building located at 550 Halstead Avenue in Harrison, New York.  The investigation identified numerous features in the buildings that are non-compliant including, but not limited to, front entrances that were inaccessible or require excessive force to use; narrow entrances to walk-in closets; mailboxes in inaccessible locations; high thresholds or other barriers leading to amenities; lack of clear floor space in bathrooms and kitchens; and environmental controls that were in inaccessible locations.    

The lawsuit seeks damages and injunctive relief to stop the discrimination and require retrofits of the buildings to make them 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.  FHJC is represented by John R. Cuti and Alice G. Reiter with the law firm of Cuti Hecker Wang LLP.

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg remarked that, “For nearly 30 years, developers, architects, and others involved in the design and construction of new multifamily housing have been required by state and federal fair housing laws to include certain accessibility and adaptability features.  The willful disregard of these accessibility requirements constitutes disability discrimination.”  Freiberg added, “Accessibility is a civil right and the FHJC will continue to press for full compliance within the housing industry so that more housing is accessible and available to people with disabilities.”   

FHJC’s investigation 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).

The mission of the Fair Housing Justice Center (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.