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Monday, October 5, 2015

Department of Justice Obtains Settlement of Disability-Based Discrimination Allegations at Three Rental Complexes on Long Island, New York

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division, and Acting U.S. Attorney Kelly T. Currie of the Eastern District of New York, today announced the filing of a consent judgment and order in U.S. v. Sayville Development, et al. to settle alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act. 

In its complaint which was filed in August 2007, the Department of Justice alleged that defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the design and construction of a rental-housing complex for senior citizens on Long Island, New York, called Sayville Commons Apartments.  Subsequent investigation revealed that the same defendants had designed and constructed two additional complexes, Broadway Knolls Apartments in Holbrook, New York, and Oak Creek Commons Condominiums in Oakdale, New York.  All three were developed by Paul Aniboli and designed by Stephen Fellman, an architect.  The consent order, which still must be approved the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, provides a comprehensive plan to remedy the violations at the three complexes.  

“The requirement that new multifamily housing be built in a manner that is accessible to persons with disabilities has been in place since 1991,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta.  “We will continue to enforce this protection vigorously so that persons with disabilities are free to live where they choose without facing unnecessary and unlawful barriers.”

“The Fair Housing Act protects the rights of all individuals, including persons with disabilities, to be free from discrimination,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Currie.  “This settlement will ensure that the apartments in these complexes are accessible to the people living there, so they can fully use and enjoy their homes.”

The accessible and adaptable design provisions of the Fair Housing Act require that ground level apartment units or units that are elevator accessible and are constructed after 1991 be accessible to individuals with disabilities. 

Litigation in this case revealed hundreds of violations of the Fair Housing Act’s requirement that apartments in the complex be designed and constructed to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.  Violations include a lack of wheelchair accessible routes between dwelling units and common areas, excessively steep cross slopes and running slopes on such accessible routes, kitchen sinks and ranges that were inaccessible, outlets and thermostats that were too high or too low and door thresholds that were too high.

The consent order provides a comprehensive plan to remedy the violations at the three complexes.  It requires defendants to perform substantial specific retrofits, including fixing the accessible routes, high door thresholds and out-swinging bathroom doors, inaccessible thermostats and outlets, and inaccessible kitchen ranges.  In addition, defendants have agreed to be bound by the terms of the consent order for three years, which provides, in part, that they will complete a Fair Housing Act training course and report to the United States any new construction in which they are involved.  The consent order also provides for relief for four aggrieved parties, who, due to disability, had difficulty moving about their own apartments or throughout the complex because of the Fair Housing Act violations.  Defendants will pay $32,500 to compensate victims, who include current and former tenants, and a non-profit fair housing organization, Long Island Housing Services, whose investigation led to this lawsuit.  In addition, the defendants must set aside $5,000 for certain retrofits that will be made at a tenant’s request, and pay the United States a civil penalty of $2,500.           

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status.  More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt.  Persons who believe that they have experienced unlawful housing discrimination may contact the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York at 718-254-7000 or by email at USANYE-CivilRights@usdoj.gov, or the Justice Department Civil Rights Division at 1-800-896-7743, or by e-mail at fairhousing@usdoj.gov, and or contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777. 

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorneys Diane C. Leonardo and Rachel G. Balaban of the Eastern District of New York, with assistance from the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

Topic(s): 
Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 
15-1225
Updated November 10, 2016