Manhattan U.S. Attorney Settles Civil Rights Lawsuit With Architects Of Manhattan Apartment Building
Architect-Defendants Agree To Hire Accessibility Expert To Review Their Architectural Designs, Establish A Fund To Compensate Victims, And Pay A Civil Penalty
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States settled a federal civil rights lawsuit against the architects of 2 Gold Street, a rental apartment building in Lower Manhattan. The lawsuit, which was filed in Manhattan federal court in 2013, alleges that the architect AVINASH K. MALHOTRA and his business, AVINASH K. MALHOTRA ARCHITECTS, designed 2 Gold Street in violation of the accessible design and construction provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act, which require that new multi-family housing complexes include certain features accessible to persons with disabilities. The settlement, which was approved today by U.S. Chief District Judge Loretta A. Preska, requires MALHOTRA and his firm to retain an accessibility expert to review all their ongoing architectural designs for buildings subject to the Fair Housing Act, dedicate $45,000 to compensate people harmed by the inaccessible conditions at 2 Gold Street, and pay a $35,000 civil penalty. Previously, the United States settled with the developers of 2 Gold Street, who agreed to make extensive retrofits at the building, dedicate up to $300,000 to compensate people harmed by the inaccessible conditions at 2 Gold Street, and pay a $35,000 civil penalty.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As design professionals, architects have a clear obligation under the Fair Housing Act to ensure that residential buildings are accessible to people with disabilities. When architects disregard that obligation, our Office will use all the legal tools available to us to hold them responsible for such failures and craft remedies to ensure that their designs will be accessible in the future.”
According to the allegations contained in the Complaint and the factual admissions made by MALHOTRA in the consent decree entered by the Court:
2 Gold Street is a 650-unit rental building located in Lower Manhattan. MALHOTRA, the architect of record for 2 Gold Street, provided the architectural drawings and design specifications used by the construction contractors to construct the building. As built, 2 Gold Street had multiple inaccessible features, including insufficient space in bathrooms and kitchens for people in wheelchairs; high thresholds interfering with accessible routes; sinks, ranges, outlets, and mailboxes not fully usable by people in wheelchairs; and protruding objects not detectable by canes used by people with visual impairments.
Inaccessible features at 2 Gold Street 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 testing.
The consent decree approved today requires AVINASH K. MALHOTRA and AVINASH K. MALHOTRA ARCHITECTS to retain an accessibility expert to review and advise them on each of their new design projects that is subject to the Fair Housing Act, train employees on the requirements of the Fair Housing Act, dedicate $45,000 to compensate people who have been harmed by Fair Housing Act violations at 2 Gold Street, and pay a $35,000 civil penalty to the United States.
Under the consent decree, a person may be entitled to receive monetary compensation if he or she was:
- Discouraged from living at 2 Gold Street because of a lack of accessible features;
- Limited in the full use or enjoyment of an apartment or amenity at 2 Gold Street due to a lack of accessible features;
- Financially affected by having an apartment at 2 Gold Street made more accessible to persons with disabilities;
- Prevented from having visitors because of a lack of accessible features at 2 Gold Street; or
- Otherwise injured by the lack of accessible features or discriminated against on the basis of disability at 2 Gold Street.
People who may be entitled to compensation should file a claim by contacting the Civil Rights Complaint Line at (212) 637-2987 (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, www.usdoj.gov/usao/nys, or sending a written claim to:
U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York
Attn: Chief, Civil Rights Unit
86 Chambers Street, 3rd Floor
New York, New York, 10007
This case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carina H. Schoenberger, Li Yu, Emily E. Daughtry, and Jessica J. Hu are in charge of the case.