FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
FRIDAY, MARCH 18, 2005
TDD (202) 514-1888
MEMPHIS BUILDERS AND DESIGNERS TO RETROFIT APARTMENTS AND PAY $300,000 TO SETTLE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT LAWSUIT ALLEGING DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department today announced that it has reached an agreement with 10 Memphis firms involved in the design and construction of five apartment complexes. The settlement resolves lawsuits brought by the Memphis Center for Independent Living and the Justice Department alleging failures to design and construct apartments with accessible features for persons with physical disabilities as required by federal law. The agreement, which still must be approved by the U.S. District Court in Memphis, affects over 375 ground floor units in Tennessee and Mississippi.
“Accessible apartments are a key to allowing individuals with disabilities to reside in neighborhood communities,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We are committed to working with builders, architects and others to promote full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. We are pleased that today’s agreement will expand the pool of accessible housing in Tennessee and Mississippi.”
The defendants named in the lawsuit are Makowsky Construction Company, Inc.; Archeon, Inc.; Reaves Sweeney Marcom, Inc.; and W.H. Porter & Co. Inc.-the complexes’ contractor, architectural firm, and engineering firms. Also named are owners and developers Penn Investors, Inc.; JAN Realty, Inc.; Belz/South Bluffs, Inc.; MRB-Windyke, L.P.; and MRB-Stonebridge, L.P and Makowsky Ringel Greenberg, LLC, a property management firm. The defendants have agreed to settle these suits by making accessibility retrofits to the units and the complexes’ common areas. The agreement also requires that the defendants establish a $260,000 fund to compensate individuals injured by the inaccessible housing, and pay $20,000 to the Memphis Center for Independent Living and $20,000 in civil penalties to the government.
The properties are Champion Hills at Windyke, Champion Hills at Stonebridge, and Eton Square Apartments-all in Memphis-and The Magnolias in Hernando, Mississippi, and Cypress Lakes Apartments in Robinsonville, Mississippi. Persons who believe they may have been harmed by the absence of accessible features at any of these apartments should call the Department of Justice at 1-800-896-7743 and select option 91 to obtain information on how they can file a claim for monetary damages. Additional information is available on the Justice Department website at www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing.
“All of the attorneys working for the various parties in this matter should be congratulated for their hard work in negotiating a settlement in this very complex case,” said Terrell Harris, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee. “My office is proud to be associated with the effort to improve accessibility for individuals with disabilities by taking barrier removal actions at the apartment communities in question.”
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status (having children under 18 years old), national origin, and disability. Since January 21, 2001, the Division has had 67 cases under the Fair Housing Act alleging discrimination based on disability, 32 of which alleged violations of the Act’s design and construct provisions.