Settlement Reached in Accessibility Case
DEFENDANTS WILL PAY $700,000 AND MAKE EXTENSIVE RETROFITS AT LONG ISLAND CITY RENTAL BUILDING
On November 1, federal Judge Gregory H. Woods signed an order agreeing to retain court jurisdiction to enforce a settlement agreement between the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC), owner Purves Street Owners, LLC,; developer Brause Realty, Inc.; co-developer Gotham Organization Inc.; and architectural firm FX Collaborative Architects (FX FOWLE).
The lawsuit, based on the results of a testing investigation conducted by the FHJC in 2017 and 2018, alleged the Defendants failed to comply with accessibility requirements in the design and construction of a 38-story, 272-unit rental building built in 2017 called The Forge located at 44-28 Purves Street in Long Island City, Queens. The Gotham Organization and FX Collaborative settled similar accessibility claims in November 2021 relating to alleged disability discrimination at two other NYC rental developments, The Ashland and The Nicole.
The investigation identified numerous non-compliant features in the apartments and common areas of The Forge including an inaccessible front entrance, apartment hallways and common area kitchens that were too narrow, inaccessibly located electrical outlets and thermostats, and inaccessible garbage door and chute handles.
While admitting no wrongdoing, Purves, Brause and FX Collaborative will collectively pay $700,000 for damages, expert fees, and attorney’s fees.
Purves and Brause Realty also agreed to extensive injunctive relief including implementing a detailed retrofit plan at the building that modifies the apartments and common areas to make the housing more accessible. In addition, current and new tenants will be offered several accessibility features for their apartments at no cost to the tenants.
Other injunctive relief includes inserting a fair housing policy on rental applications, posting a HUD poster in the rental office, and including equal housing opportunity language or a logo on The Forge website. A representative for Purves and Brause Realty will also attend training about fair housing laws. Training for Gotham and FX employees was included in the FHJC’s earlier settlement.
“We are pleased with this settlement, and proud of our numerous successful accessibility investigations and lawsuits,” stated FHJC Legal Coordinator Madhulika Murali, “but they only happen after the violations have occurred, after people with disabilities have suffered through the indignities of housing discrimination.” FHJC Executive Director Elizabeth Grossman added, “Rather than waiting for lawsuits to force their hand retroactively, developers and architects need to build their projects in a lawful manner right from the start.”
The FHJC was represented in the case by Diane L. Houk and Max Selver with the law firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP.
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 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.