Manhattan U.S. Attorney Files Civil Rights Suit And Enters Settlement With Real Estate Developer To Enhance Accessibility At Three Buildings With More Than 2,400 Rental Apartments
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has settled a federal civil rights lawsuit against SILVERSTEIN PROPERTIES, INC. (“SILVERSTEIN PROPERTIES”) and two of its affiliates, River Place I, LLC and River Place II Holding, LLC, by consent decree. Under the settlement, SILVERSTEIN PROPERTIES has agreed to make retrofits at two large rental complexes in Manhattan – One River Place and Silver Towers – to make them more accessible to individuals with disabilities. SILVERSTEIN PROPERTIES also has agreed to inspect a third rental complex in Manhattan, One Freedom Place, and, where necessary, make retrofits at that building as well. Additionally, SILVERSTEIN PROPERTIES must establish procedures to ensure that its ongoing and future development projects will comply with the accessibility requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”). Finally, SILVERSTEIN PROPERTIES has agreed to provide up to $960,000 to compensate aggrieved persons and pay a civil penalty of $50,000. The consent decree was approved yesterday by U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “This lawsuit demonstrates our commitment to fulfilling for all New Yorkers the promise of the Fair Housing Act — that people with disabilities have the same access to housing as everyone else. Today’s settlement requires Silverstein Properties to adopt procedures to ensure accessibility at its current and future development projects, making retrofits at buildings that it has already developed, and compensating aggrieved parties.”
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, One River Place and Silver Towers, two rental complexes located in Manhattan that together contain more than 2,200 rental units, were 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, insufficient spaces in bathrooms and kitchens for people in wheelchairs, and bathroom configurations preventing installation of grab bars. The inaccessible conditions at One River Place were first brought to the attention of the United States Attorney’s Office by testing performed by the Fair Housing Justice Center.
Under the settlement, SILVERSTEIN PROPERTIES agrees to make extensive retrofits at One River Place and Silver Towers to make them accessible. SILVERSTEIN PROPERTIES also agrees to arrange for inspection of a third rental complex in Manhattan, One Freedom Place, and, where necessary, to make retrofits at that property as well. Together, the three properties contain more than 2,400 rental apartments.
The settlement also requires SILVERSTEIN PROPERTIES to establish procedures to ensure FHA compliance at its ongoing and future development projects. These include retaining an FHA compliance consultant to ensure that each residential building developed by SILVERSTEIN PROPERTIES will, as constructed, comply with the FHA’s accessibility requirements. 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, SILVERSTEIN PROPERTIES agrees to institute policies and training to ensure that its employees and agents will comply with the FHA’s accessibility requirements.
Finally, the settlement requires SILVERSTEIN PROPERTIES to provide up to $960,000 to compensate aggrieved persons. SILVERSTEIN PROPERTIES also agrees to pay a civil penalty of $50,000.
The government’s lawsuit also asserts claims against the architect of One River Place and Silver Towers, COSTAS KONDYLIS & PARTNERS, LLP. Those claims remain 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 River Place, Silver Towers, or One Freedom Place;
Discouraged from living at One River Place, Silver Towers, or One Freedom Place because of the lack of accessible features;
Required to pay to have an apartment at One River Place, Silver Towers, or One Freedom Place made accessible;
Prevented from having visitors because of a lack of accessible features at One River Place, Silver Towers, or One Freedom Place; or
Otherwise injured or discriminated against on the basis of disability due to the design or construction of One River Place, Silver Towers, or One Freedom Place.
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 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 Li Yu, Jacob Lillywhite, Jessica Jean Hu, and Natasha W. Teleanu are in charge of the case.