Manhattan U.S. Attorney Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Architect And Developers To Improve Accessibility In Manhattan Apartment Building
Suit Against Architect-Defendants Proceeds; Developer-Defendants Agree To Simultaneous Settlement
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in Manhattan federal court alleging that 2 Gold Street, a residential apartment building in Manhattan, is inaccessible to persons with disabilities. The suit alleges that AVINASH K. MALHOTRA ARCHITECTS, AVINASH K. MALHOTRA, TF CORNERSTONE INC., TF CORNERSTONE PROPERTIES LLC, and 2 GOLD L.L.C. violated the design and construction provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act, which require that new multi-family housing complexes include certain features accessible to persons with disabilities. The United States simultaneously settled the case against the developer-defendants, TF CORNERSTONE INC., TF CORNERSTONE PROPERTIES LLC, and 2 GOLD L.L.C., pursuant to a consent decree approved yesterday by U.S. District Judge Robert P. Patterson. The suit against 2 Gold Street’s architects, AVINASH K. MALHOTRA ARCHITECTS and AVINASH K. MALHOTRA, is still pending.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “We will not allow architects and developers to cut corners at the expense of people with disabilities in order to increase their profits, or for any reason. This suit represents our Office’s continued commitment to holding accountable those who fail to design and construct accessible housing in accordance with federal law, and to seeking settlements that provide legally required accommodations for individuals with disabilities and compensation for those who have been deprived of fair housing.”
According to the allegations contained in the Complaint:
2 Gold Street, a 650-unit building located in Manhattan, was designed and constructed with multiple inaccessible features, including insufficient space in bathrooms and kitchens for people in wheelchairs; high thresholds interfering with accessible routes; sinks, ranges, outlets, and mailboxes not fully usable by people in wheelchairs; and protruding objects not detectable by canes used by people with visual impairments. Inaccessible features at 2 Gold Street were first brought to the attention of the United States by testing performed by the Fair Housing Justice Center. The U.S. Attorney’s Office frequently relies on testers to determine whether property owners are engaging in discrimination on the basis of race, disability, or other protected characteristics, and frequently files lawsuits based on the results of testing.
The consent decree approved yesterday requires TF CORNERSTONE INC., TF CORNERSTONE PROPERTIES LLC, and 2 GOLD L.L.C. to retrofit inaccessible features throughout the property; train employees on the requirements of the Fair Housing Act; pay a $35,000 civil penalty to the United States; and dedicate up to $300,000 to compensate people who have been harmed by Fair Housing Act violations at 2 Gold Street.
Under the consent decree, a person may be entitled to receive monetary compensation if he or she was:
- Discouraged from living at 2 Gold Street because of a lack of accessible features;
- Limited in the full use or enjoyment of an apartment or amenity at 2 Gold Street due to a lack of accessible features;
- Financially affected by having an apartment at 2 Gold Street made more accessible to persons with disabilities;
- Prevented from having visitors because of a lack of accessible features at 2 Gold Street; or
- Otherwise injured by the lack of accessible features or discriminated against on the basis of disability at 2 Gold Street.
People who may be entitled to compensation should file a claim by contacting the Civil Rights Complaint Line at (212) 637-2987 (a TDD line is available at (212) 637-0039), using the Civil Rights Complaint Form available on the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s website, www.usdoj.gov/usao/nys, or sending a written claim to:
U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York
Attn: Chief, Civil Rights Unit
86 Chambers Street, 3rd Floor
New York, New York, 10007
The claims against the architect-defendants, AVINASH K. MALHOTRA ARCHITECTS and AVINASH K. MALHOTRA, were not resolved by the consent decree and will go forward. The United States seeks a court order enjoining these defendants from designing multi-family housing without the accessibility features required by federal law. The United States also seeks damages for persons harmed by their unlawful practices, and a civil penalty to vindicate the public interest.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carina H. Schoenberger, Emily E. Daughtry, and Li Yu are in charge of the case.