Opening Acts: November 15, 2019

FHJC Lawsuit Alleges Disability Discrimination

INVESTIGATION DOCUMENTS INACCESSIBLE FEATURES AT LUXURY APARTMENT BUILDING IN LONG ISLAND CITY

On November 13, 2019, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York alleging that two major New York developers, 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 Brause Realty, Inc., Gotham Organization Inc., FX Collaborative Architects (FX FOWLE), and Purves Street Owners LLC.

The lawsuit is based on the results of a testing investigation conducted by the FHJC in 2017 and 2018. The complaint alleges that the developers failed to comply with accessibility requirements in the design and construction of a 38-story, 272-unit residential rental building built in 2017 called The Forge located at 44-28 Purves Street in Long Island City, Queens. The investigation identified numerous features in the building that are non-compliant including, but not limited to, a front entrance to the building that was not accessible, electrical outlets and thermostats that were placed in inaccessible locations, apartment hallways that were too narrow, inaccessible garbage door and chute handles, and common area kitchens that lacked sufficient width.

In May of this year, Gotham was named as a defendant in a similar FHJC lawsuit regarding two other rental properties, The Ashland located in Fort Green, Brooklyn, and The Nicole located in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan. FXFOWLE, another defendant in the case, was involved in designing The Ashland. That lawsuit is pending. In 2016, FXFOWLE admitted in a settlement with the Department of Justice that yet another building they had designed, The Helena on W. 57th Street in Manhattan, did not satisfy federal accessibility standards.

The lawsuit seeks damages and injunctive relief to stop the discrimination, 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. The FHJC is represented by Debra L. Greenberger and Diane L. Houk with the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady 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 enforcement of fair housing laws in the New York City region.