Fair Housing Accessibility Case Settled
DEFENDANTS AGREE TO RETROFIT TWO RENTAL BUILDINGS IN MANHATTAN AND BROOKLYN AND PAY $1.45 MILLION
On October 30, 2021, 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), developer defendants Gotham Organization Inc., Bam Go Developers LLC, Bam Go Developers II, LLC, and 55th and 9th LLC, and the architect for one of the buildings, FX Collaborative Architects, LLP. The parties’ agreement resolves a lawsuit filed by the FHJC in May 2019 which alleged that two rental buildings in New York City did not comply with fair housing accessibility requirements.
In 2018, the FHJC conducted a testing investigation at two mixed-income rental developments: The Ashland, a 53-story, 563-unit Brooklyn apartment building built in 2016 and The Nicole, a 20-story, 145-unit Manhattan apartment building built in 2004. In its lawsuit, FHJC alleged that its testing identified various features in the apartments and common areas in both buildings that were inaccessible and not in compliance with fair housing laws.
The 5-year settlement agreement provides that the developer defendants will implement retrofit plans at both buildings and modify dwelling units 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. The developer defendants will also retrofit some units in each building to have them meet the heightened accessibility specifications of the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS).
The developer defendants have agreed to contract with an inspector to inspect all the retrofits. Both Gotham and FX Collaborative will retain consultants to review architectural drawings and site conditions at certain future multi-family buildings during the term of the agreement. Defendants have also agreed to have their employees attend training on fair housing accessibility requirements.
A portion of the settlement funds will be added to FHJC’s Adele Friedman Housing Accessibility Fund, which provides money to income-eligible persons with disabilities to make reasonable modifications to their existing housing units to make the housing accessible.
FHJC National Field Consultant Fred Freiberg stated, “Recent settlements obtained by the FHJC should persuade developers, architects, and others involved in the design and construction of multi-family residential developments that it is more prudent and far less costly to build housing compliant with accessibility requirements rather than incur substantial expenses for retrofits, damages, and attorneys’ fees after the violations are found.” Freiberg added, “Accessible housing is a civil right.”
FHJC was represented by Debra L. Greenberger and Diane L. Houk with the law firm of 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.