Manhattan U.S. Attorney Settles Civil Rights Lawsuit That Ensures Accessibility At Manhattan Rental Complex
Developer, Architect and Current Owner Agree to Enhance Accessibility; Developer and Architect Agree to Pay Civil Penalties and Contribute to an Aggrieved Persons Fund
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has settled a civil rights lawsuit in Manhattan federal court against the developer, architect, and current owner of RiverEast, a residential apartment complex in Manhattan, alleging that the apartment complex is inaccessible to persons with disabilities. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that THE JOHN BUCK COMPANY, LLC; BUCK DEVELOPMENT LLC; BUCK 92ND/1ST LLC; BUCK INVESTORS I, LLC; 92ND & FIRST RESIDENTIAL TOWER LLC; and THE JBC ACQUISTION & DEVELOPMENT FUND 1, LP (collectively, the “JOHN BUCK ENTITIES”), the developers of RiverEast, and SLCE ARCHITECTS LLP (“SLCE”), the architectural firm that designed the building, violated the design and construction provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act, which require that new multi-family housing complexes include certain features to make them accessible to persons with disabilities. The United States also sued RIVER EAST APARTMENTS INVESTORS, LLC, the current owner of RiverEast, to ensure that retrofits making the apartment complex accessible to persons with disabilities could be implemented. The consent decree was approved yesterday by U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Developers and architects working in New York City have no excuse for failing to comply with the Fair Housing Act, and this Office will find and pursue offenders aggressively, particularly repeat offenders as we had here. Today’s settlement ensures that RiverEast will be made accessible to people with disabilities, and that people who were unlawfully denied full use of the complex will be compensated appropriately.”
According to the allegations contained in the Complaint:
RiverEast, a 196-unit apartment building located at 408 East 92nd Street in Manhattan, was designed and constructed with many inaccessible features. These include insufficient clear floor space in trash rooms and within bathrooms for maneuvering at lavatories and toilets; impediments to the installation of bathroom grab bars; kitchen and bathroom electrical outlets not fully usable to persons with mobility impairments; mailboxes that are too high for people who use wheelchairs; and inaccessible common area bathrooms. Inaccessible features at RiverEast 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 such testing. This is the ninth case filed by the Office in recent years based on testing.
The consent decree approved today requires the JOHN BUCK ENTITIES and SLCE to retrofit inaccessible features throughout the property and train employees on the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.
In addition, because one of the JOHN BUCK ENTITIES previously entered into a consent decree with the United States in the Northern District of Illinois to resolve allegations of Fair Housing Act violations, the United States sought increased penalties for this repeat violation of the Fair Housing Act. The JOHN BUCK ENTITIES and SLCE agreed to pay an increased civil penalty of $72,000, and to dedicate $125,000 to compensate people who have been harmed by inadequate accessibility at RiverEast.
Under the settlement, a person may be entitled to receive monetary compensation if he or she was:
- Discouraged from living at RiverEast because of a lack of accessible features;
- Limited in the full use or enjoyment of an apartment or amenity at RiverEast due to a lack of accessible features;
- Financially affected by having to make an apartment at RiverEast more accessible to persons with disabilities;
- Prevented from having visitors because of a lack of accessible features at RiverEast; or
- Otherwise injured by the lack of accessible features or discriminated against on the basis of disability at RiverEast.
People who may be entitled to compensation should file a claim by contacting the Civil Rights Complaint Line at (212) 637-0840 (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, http://www.justice.gov/usao/nys/civilrights.html, or sending a written claim to:
U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York
86 Chambers Street, 3rd Floor
New York, New York, 10007
Attention: Chief, Civil Rights Unit
The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emily E. Daughtry, Li Yu, and Carina H. Schoenberger are in charge of the case.