U.S. Attorney Reaches Settlement With Bronx Developer To Increase Accessibility For People With Disabilities At Rental Complexes In Bronx And Orange Counties
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has settled its federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) lawsuit against WEBSTER AV MANAGEMENT LLC (“WEBSTER”). Under the settlement, WEBSTER has agreed to make retrofits to the Riverdale Parc rental complex in the Bronx and the Bluestone Commons rental complex in Maybrook, New York, which together contain more than 120 apartments, in order to make those apartments more accessible to individuals with disabilities. WEBSTER also has agreed to establish procedures to ensure that its future residential development projects will comply with the accessibility requirements of the FHA. Additionally, the settlement requires WEBSTER to provide up to $105,000 to compensate aggrieved persons and to pay a civil penalty of $37,500. The resolution of this lawsuit was approved yesterday by U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe. Previously, on January 26, 2017, the United States obtained a court-ordered preliminary injunction on consent in this lawsuit that requires WEBSTER to ensure accessibility at two other rental complexes currently under development in the Bronx.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “The Fair Housing Act’s accessibility provisions protect people with disabilities wherever they live. Today’s settlement is part of the Office’s long-standing effort to fulfill the FHA’s promise of accessibility throughout the counties in the Southern District of New York.”
The FHA’s accessible design and construction provisions require new multifamily housing complexes constructed after 1991 to have basic features accessible to persons with disabilities. According to the allegations in the complaint and the factual admissions in the settlement stipulation, the Riverdale Parc and Bluestone Commons rental complexes, which WEBSTER designed and constructed, have a number of inaccessible features, including bedroom, bathroom, and balcony doors that are not wide enough to accommodate people in wheelchairs, excessively high thresholds within individual units, thermostats and light switches located too high above the floor, and common area bathrooms that lack grab bars.
Pursuant to the settlement, WEBSTER agreed to make retrofits to both the public and common use areas and the individual units to ensure that Riverdale Parc and Bluestone Commons are accessible. The settlement also requires WEBSTER to establish procedures to ensure FHA compliance at its future development projects, including to retain an FHA compliance consultant to assess the design documents and conduct site visits to identify non-compliant conditions. In addition, WEBSTER agreed to institute policies and training to ensure that its employees and agents will comply with the FHA’s accessibility requirements.
The settlement requires WEBSTER to provide up to $105,000 to compensate aggrieved persons. Aggrieved persons 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 Riverdale Parc or Bluestone Commons because of the lack of accessible features;
- Have been hurt in any way by the lack of accessible features at Riverdale Parc or Bluestone Commons;
- Paid to have an apartment at Riverdale Parc or Bluestone Commons made more accessible to persons with disabilities; or
- Otherwise were discriminated against on the basis of disability at Riverdale Parc or Bluestone Commons as a result of inaccessible design and construction.
Any individual who may be entitled to compensation can file a claim by 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
Finally, WEBSTER also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $37,500.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Natasha W. Teleanu, Li Yu, and Jacob Lillywhite are in charge of the case.