Civil Rights Settlement In Manhattan Federal Court Requires Major Real Estate Developer To Make New And Recent Rental Complexes Accessible To All New Yorkers
Settlement Creates Process To Ensure Accessibility At Hudson Yards And Other Developments, Makes Sixteen Rental Complexes More Accessible, And Provides Funds To Compensate Aggrieved Persons
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today the settlement of a federal civil rights lawsuit with the RELATED COMPANIES (“RELATED”) by consent decree. Under the settlement, RELATED agrees to establish procedures that will ensure that its ongoing and future development projects, such as the residential complexes at the Hudson Yards development on Manhattan’s West Side, will comply with the accessibility requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”). RELATED also agrees to make retrofits at four residential rental complexes in Manhattan – One Carnegie Hill, Tribeca Green, 500 West 30th Street, and 529 West 29th Street – to make them more accessible to individuals with disabilities. Additionally, RELATED agrees to inspect its twelve other residential rental complexes in Manhattan and, where necessary, make retrofits at those buildings as well. Finally, RELATED agrees to provide up to $1.9 million to compensate aggrieved persons and pay a civil penalty of $100,000. The consent decree was approved today by U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “For over two decades, the Fair Housing Act has required newly built residential rental buildings to be accessible to people with disabilities. Yet developers in New York City have too often disregarded that requirement. It is encouraging that a major developer like Related has embraced its obligations under the law by agreeing to establish a process for ensuring accessibility at its ongoing and future development projects and to make retrofits in thousands of apartments. We hope this settlement will serve as a positive example for the developer community. But any developer that continues to ignore its obligation to comply with the law must understand that my Office is prepared to use all legal tools available to enforce the Fair Housing Act and ensure that New Yorkers with disabilities have full access to rental apartments in New York City.”
The FHA’s accessible design and construction provisions require new multi-family housing complexes constructed after January 1993 to have basic features accessible to persons with disabilities. In March 2014, the United States filed this lawsuit against RELATED and two architectural firms, alleging that a number of past and ongoing rental projects designed and constructed by RELATED and the architects, including One Carnegie Hill and Tribeca Green, do not comply with the FHA’s accessibility requirements.
Under the settlement, RELATED agrees that, for every multi-family housing project it constructs in the next four years, it will retain an FHA compliance consultant to ensure that the building, as constructed, will comply with the FHA’s accessibility requirements. For example, the FHA consultant will advise RELATED on the selection of fixtures and appliances and whether deviating from the architects’ drawings will affect accessibility. The FHA consultant also will conduct a site visit to identify non-compliant conditions and recommend appropriate solutions prior to the completion of construction. In addition, RELATED agrees to institute policies and training to ensure that its own employees and agents will comply with the FHA’s accessibility requirements.
Further, the settlement also requires RELATED to make extensive retrofits at two rental complexes, One Carnegie Hill and Tribeca Green, and to commit to additional retrofits at two other rental complexes that have been inspected, 500 West 30th Street, and 529 West 29th Street, in order to make them accessible. RELATED also agrees to arrange for inspection at its 12 other rental complexes in Manhattan and, where necessary, to make retrofits at those properties as well. Together, the 16 buildings covered by the consent decree contain more than 4,500 rental apartments.
Finally, the settlement requires RELATED to provide up to $1.9 million in funds to compensate aggrieved persons. RELATED also agrees to pay a civil penalty of $100,000.
The government’s lawsuit also asserted claims against the architects of One Carnegie Hill and Tribeca Green, ISMAIL LEYVA ARECHITECTS and ROBERT M. STERN ARCHITECTS. The United States is engaged in active negotiations with those architects regarding a potential settlement.
This settlement resolves claims against the developers in this eighth FHA lawsuit brought by the United States in Manhattan federal court to rectify inaccessible conditions at residential apartment buildings. The United States has settled claims against developers in the seven prior cases through consent decrees. A ninth lawsuit involving inaccessible design and construction of residential apartment buildings, against the Durst Organization, is still pending.
Aggrieved individuals may be entitled to monetary compensation from the fund created through today’s settlement. Aggrieved individuals may include those who were:
- Injured by a lack of accessible features at One Carnegie Hill, Tribeca Green, or the other properties constructed by RELATED;
- Discouraged from living at One Carnegie Hill, Tribeca Green, or the other properties constructed by RELATED because of the lack of accessible features;
- Required to pay to have an apartment at One Carnegie Hill, Tribeca Green, or the other properties constructed by RELATED made accessible,
- Prevented from having visitors because of a lack of accessible features at One Carnegie Hill, Tribeca Green, or the other properties constructed by RELATED; or
- Otherwise injured or discriminated against on the basis of disability as a result of the design or construction of One Carnegie Hill, Tribeca Green, or the other properties constructed by RELATED.
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 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 Li Yu, Emily E. Daughtry, Carina H. Schoenberger, and Jessica J. Hu are in charge of the case.