WASHINGTON – Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division and Roslynn R. Mauskopf, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, today announced the filing of a federal complaint against Sayville Development Group LLC and Stephen Ray Fellman for violations of the Fair Housing Act. Sayville is the developer of a multifamily housing complex in Long Island, N.Y. called Sayville Commons, which is a rental community for residents aged 55 and older located at 400 Adams Way in Sayville, N.Y. Fellman is an architect who provided architectural and engineering services for the construction of Sayville Commons. The complaint also names the current owner of Sayville Commons, Home Properties Sayville LLC as a defendant.
According to the government’s complaint, Sayville Commons, a 342 unit complex with 171 ground floor units, violates the Fair Housing Act because it does not provide appropriate access to persons with disabilities. In particular, the complaint alleges that the common and public areas of Sayville Commons are not readily accessible to persons with disabilities; the doors in ground floor units are not wide enough to allow passage by persons who use wheelchairs, and the ground floor units lack accessible routes into and through the units. The complaint further alleges that ground floor units do not have usable kitchens and bathrooms for people who use wheelchairs. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief requiring Sayville Commons to be brought into compliance with the Fair Housing Act, damages to compensate all persons harmed by defendants’ discriminatory practices, and civil penalties to vindicate the public interest.
“This lawsuit seeks to ensure that people with disabilities are not denied equal access to fair housing,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of all the fair housing laws.”
“Persons with disabilities and those who are confined to wheelchairs are entitled to the protections of the Fair Housing Act, including readily accessible common and public areas, access into and through their units and usable facilities,” stated United States Attorney Mauskopf. “Developers and architects will be held accountable for failing to extend these basic protections to our older, disabled citizens who need them most.”
The government’s case is being litigated by Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise McGinn and Trial Attorney Joseph Gaeta from the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
Fighting illegal housing discrimination is a top priority of the Justice Department. In February 2006, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales announced Operation Home Sweet Home, a concentrated initiative to expose and eliminate housing discrimination in America. More information about Operation Home Sweet Home is available at the Justice Department website at http://www.usdoj.gov/fairhousing. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.
Since Jan. 1, 2001, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has filed 230 cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act, 105 of which have alleged discrimination based on disability.