FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE |
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SETTLES ROCHESTER, NEW YORK HOUSING DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department today announced the settlement of a lawsuit filed under the Fair Housing Act against the developer, architect, and engineer of the Blueberry Hill apartment complex in Rochester, New York. The defendants, Blueberry Hill Associates, Passero Associates, and Costich Engineering and Land Surveying, will pay $303,000 in damages and penalties, and will also fund substantial retrofitting of the complex.
The lawsuit, filed in October 2002, alleged that in developing the Blueberry Hill Apartment Complex, the defendants discriminated against individuals with disabilities by failing to comply with federal accessible housing design requirements. This matter was referred to the Department of Justice by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”), after two former residents of the complex filed complaints with HUD.
“Through the President’s New Freedom Initiative, this Administration has committed itself to securing for individuals with disabilities the full access the law requires,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “The provision of accessible housing allows individuals with disabilities the freedom to participate more fully in society, and we are committed to vigorously enforcing such laws.”
Under the agreement, defendants, Blueberry Hill Associates, L.P., Passero Associates, P.C., and Costich Engineering and Land Surveying, P.C., will pay $300,000 to compensate individuals who experienced difficulties living at the complex, or who were unable to live in the complex, due to its non-compliance. They will also pay a $3,000 civil penalty to the United States to vindicate the public interest in the matter. Finally, they will fund substantial retro-fitting of required accommodations for individuals with disabilities, which will include modifying the interiors of all first-floor apartment units, as well as sidewalks, entryways, and other public exterior spaces. The settlement remains subject to court approval.
“We are committed to enforcing the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act,” said Carolyn Peoples, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “As over fifty million Americans live with some type of physical disability, it is critical we do all we can to provide housing that meets their needs.”
Through the President’s New Freedom Initiative, the Civil Rights Division is committed to providing greater access for Americans with disabilities. Since January 20, 2001, the Division has filed 102 lawsuits under the Fair Housing Act cases, including 23 based under its design and construction provisions. Moreover, the Division has successfully resolved over one-thousand disability-related complaints and lawsuits, securing enhanced access to housing, public accommodations and services. Moreover, the Division works with businesses to achieve voluntary compliance, consults with municipalities to bring public facilities up to code, and also with states to conform state accessibility codes with federal standards.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or familial status (having children under 18). Persons who believe that they have been victims of unlawful housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 or the Department of Justice at 1-800-896-7743 or 202-514-4713. Additional information is available at <http://www.hud.gov> and <http://www.usdoj.gov>.