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Press Release

Acting U.S. Attorney Reaches Agreement With Architecture Firm Over Failure To Ensure Accessibility In Manhattan Apartment Complex

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Joon H. Kim, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that the United States has settled a federal civil rights lawsuit against SLCE ARCHITECTS, LLP (“SLCE”), by consent decree.  The suit alleges that SLCE violated the federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) by failing to design the Verdesian Apartments (“The Verdesian”), a Manhattan residential apartment complex, with the features required by the FHA to ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities.  

Under the settlement, SLCE agrees to establish procedures, including the appointment of a Coordinator for Accessibility Education, to ensure that its ongoing and future development projects will comply with the accessibility requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”).  Further, as part of the consent decree, SLCE has agreed to provide up to $15,000 to compensate aggrieved persons and to pay a civil penalty of $30,000.  The consent decree was entered on May 24, 2017, by U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff.

The developer of The Verdesian, Albanese Organization, Inc., and three of its affiliates, North End Associates, LLC, River Terrace Associates, LLC, and Chelsea Associates, LLC (together, the “Developer Defendants”), were also named as defendants in the suit, and Judge Rakoff approved a consent decree between the Government and the Developer Defendants on February 12, 2017, under which the Developer Defendants, among other remedial measures, agreed to make retrofits to The Verdesian.      

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “Through this lawsuit, the Office continues its efforts to require not only developers, but also architects, to comply with the law by creating rental properties that are accessible to New Yorkers with disabilities. This settlement ensures that future projects designed by SLCE will comply with the FHA and can be fully enjoyed by individuals with disabilities.”

The FHA’s accessible design and construction provisions require new multifamily housing complexes constructed after January 1993 to have basic features accessible to persons with disabilities.  According to the allegations in the Complaint, The Verdesian, a rental complex located at 211 North End with 253 rental units, was designed and constructed with numerous inaccessible features, including excessively high thresholds interfering with accessible routes in the public and common areas as well as into and within individual units, and insufficient widths, clearance, and clear floor space in bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, and kitchens for maneuvering by people who use wheelchairs.    

To ensure future FHA compliance, the settlement requires SLCE to certify its plans, drawings, and blueprints as adhering to the requirements of the FHA and to institute policies and training to ensure that its employees and agents will comply with the FHA’s accessibility requirements.

Finally, the settlement requires SLCE to pay a civil penalty of $30,000 and to provide up to $15,000 to compensate aggrieved persons.   

Aggrieved individuals may be entitled to monetary compensation from the fund created through the settlement.  Aggrieved individuals may include those who:

  • Were discouraged from living at The Verdesian because of the lack of accessible features;
  • Have been hurt in any way by the lack of accessible features at The Verdesian;
  • Paid to have an apartment at The Verdesian made more accessible to persons with disabilities; or
  • Otherwise were discriminated against on the basis of disability at The Verdesian as a result of the inaccessible design and construction of the properties.

People who may be entitled to compensation should file a claim by contacting the Civil Rights Complaint Line at (212) 637-0840, using the Civil Rights Complaint Form available on the United States Attorney’s Office’s website, or by 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 Natasha W. Teleanu, Lauren Almquist Lively, Li Yu, and Jacob Lillywhite are in charge of the case.


Updated May 26, 2017

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 17-152