U.S. Attorney Files Suit And Reaches Agreement With Real Estate Developer To Increase Accessibility At Three Manhattan Apartment Buildings
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 ALBANESE ORGANIZATION, INC. (“ALBANESE”) and three of its affiliates, NORTH END ASSOCIATES, LLC, RIVER TERRACE ASSOCIATES, LLC, and CHELSEA ASSOCIATES, LLC (together, the “DEVELOPER DEFENDANTS”), by consent decree. Under the settlement, ALBANESE has agreed to make retrofits at The Verdesian, a rental complex located at 211 North End Avenue in Manhattan, in order to comply with the federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) and make The Verdesian more accessible to individuals with disabilities. The DEVELOPER DEFENDANTS also have agreed to inspect two additional rental complexes in Manhattan, The Solaire and The Vanguard Chelsea, and, where necessary, make retrofits at those buildings as well. Additionally, ALBANESE commits in the consent decree to establish procedures to ensure that its ongoing and future development projects will comply with the accessibility requirements of the FHA. Finally, as part of the consent decree, the DEVELOPER DEFENDANTS have agreed to provide up to $500,000 to compensate aggrieved persons and pay a civil penalty of $45,000. The consent decree was approved late yesterday by U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “This lawsuit – the fifteenth of its kind filed in recent years – is another step in our ongoing effort to ensure equal accessibility for New Yorkers with disabilities. Today’s settlement not only provides compensation for those who have been aggrieved by existing inaccessible conditions, but also provides that Albanese and its affiliates will implement procedures to guarantee accessibility at The Verdesian, The Solaire, The Vanguard Chelsea, and future development projects.”
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, Verdesian, a rental complex 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.
Under the settlement, ALBANESE agrees to make extensive retrofits at The Verdesian to make it accessible. The DEVELOPER DEFENDANTS also agree to arrange for inspections of two additional rental complexes in Manhattan, The Solaire, located at 20 River Terrace, and The Vanguard Chelsea, located at 77 West 24th Street, and, where necessary, to make retrofits at those properties. Together, The Verdesian, The Solaire, and The Vanguard Chelsea contain more than 800 rental apartments.
The settlement also requires ALBANESE to establish procedures to ensure FHA compliance at its ongoing and future development projects, including retaining an FHA compliance consultant to ensure that each residential building developed by ALBANESE will, as constructed, comply with the FHA. 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, ALBANESE 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 the DEVELOPER DEFENDANTS to provide up to $500,000 to compensate aggrieved persons. The DEVELOPER DEFENDANTS also agree to pay a civil penalty of $45,000.
The government’s lawsuit also asserts claims against the architect of The Verdesian, SLCE Architects, 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 discouraged from living at The Verdesian, Vanguard Chelsea, or The Solaire because of the lack of accessible features;
Have been hurt in any way by the lack of accessible features at The Verdesian, Vanguard Chelsea, or The Solaire;
Paid to have an apartment at The Verdesian, Vanguard Chelsea, or The Solaire made more accessible to persons with disabilities; or
Otherwise were discriminated against on the basis of disability at The Verdesian, Vanguard Chelsea, or The Solaire as a result of the inaccessible design and construction of the properties.
Any individual 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 Jessica Jean Hu, Natasha W. Teleanu, Li Yu, and Jacob Lillywhite are in charge of the case.