Long Island Developer Builds Inaccessible Rental Housing in Brooklyn and Queens
FHJC Testing Investigation Documents Civil Rights Violations
On October 30, 2015, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) filed three federal lawsuits in the Eastern District of New York alleging that a major developer of luxury rental buildings failed to design and construct two new rental buildings in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and one new rental building in Long Island City, Queens in compliance with accessibility requirements under local, state, and federal fair housing laws. The defendants named in all three lawsuits include Heatherwood Communities, LLC, Karl Fischer Architecture PLLC, and Severud Associates Consulting Engineers, P.C. The lawsuits are based on the results of a testing investigation conducted by the FHJC which yielded evidence that these new multifamily apartment buildings are not accessible to persons with physical disabilities and do not require the minimum levels of accessibility.
More specifically, the lawsuits allege that the defendants failed to comply with accessibility requirements at two 95-unit rental buildings in Brooklyn, one located at 544 Union Avenue and another located at 568 Union Avenue, and at a 142-unit rental building located at 27-03 42nd Road in Queens. At all three buildings, the investigation found inaccessible common use areas; doors not sufficiently wide to be usable; the lack of an accessible route into and through the dwelling; and environmental controls in inaccessible locations. At the two buildings in Brooklyn, kitchens and bathrooms also lacked sufficient maneuvering space for wheelchair users.
FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “Accessibility is a civil right. Building over 300 units of inaccessible rental housing is unacceptable. We must change the current culture of indifference that exists within segments of the building industry in New York toward the rights of people with disabilities.” Freiberg added, “We do see some evidence that builders, architects, and engineers are beginning to recognize that it is more sensible and cost-effective to design and construct housing in an accessible manner rather than incur the enormous expense of retrofitting a building to make it accessible later.”
The lawsuits seek damages and injunctive relief to stop the discrimination, retrofit the buildings to make them accessible, and take other remedial action to ensure compliance with accessibility requirements in the future. FHJC is represented by the law firm of Parker Hanski LLC.