Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has filed a lawsuit against BEDFORD DEVELOPMENT LLC (“BEDFORD”), CARNEGIE CONSTRUCTION CORP. (“CARNEGIE”), JOBCO INC. (“JOBCO”), ROBERT PASCUCCI (“PASCUCCI”), the sole shareholder of BEDFORD and CARNEGIE and the president of JOBCO, and WARSHAUER MELLUSI WARSHAUER ARCHITECTS, P.C. (“WMW ARCHITECTS”), for violating the Fair Housing Act. The Government alleges that these defendants discriminated against disabled residents of the Sutton Manor condominium in Mount Kisco, New York, by failing to design and construct Sutton Manor so as to be accessible to persons with disabilities.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “The Fair Housing Act mandates accessibility in design and construction. Through this lawsuit – like the many other similar suits brought by this Office – we intend to hold these defendants accountable for their failure to adhere to the laws that ensure equal access to housing for New Yorkers with disabilities.”
As alleged in the Complaint filed in White Plains federal court:
The Fair Housing Act’s accessible design and construction provisions require new multifamily housing complexes constructed after January 1993 to have basic features accessible to persons with disabilities.
Sutton Manor is a residential condominium building located in Mount Kisco, New York, that was built and advertised as a “55+ Adult Community” and as being “[Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant.” But the building, a three-story elevator building with 47 units, a community room, and underground and outdoor parking, was designed and constructed with numerous inaccessible features, including insufficient clear opening width at, and excessive force required to operate, the doors to the elevator lobbies, excessively high thresholds at the entrances to the patios or balconies from within individual units and from the community room, insufficient clear opening width of each panel of the double-leaf doors leading to the patio or balcony in individual units, excessively high thresholds at the entrances to showers, and insufficient clear floor space in the hallways and kitchens for maneuvering by persons who use wheelchairs.
Michael and Linda Tracey, Mark and Gloria Koller, and Ina Grober (“Complainants”) each purchased and moved into units at Sutton Manor in 2007. One of the reasons the Kollers, Traceys, and Ms. Grober purchased units at Sutton Manor was because the defendants advertised Sutton Manor as being accessible to persons with disabilities. Ms. Tracey, Ms. Koller, and Ms. Grober each has a disability that limits her mobility. Ms. Tracey uses an electric wheelchair and Ms. Koller and Ms. Grober each use a walker. Between August 2007 and April 2010, the Traceys, Kollers, and Ms. Grober, along with several other unit owners, repeatedly notified the defendants about numerous inaccessible features in the common areas and individual units at Sutton Manor and requested that the accessibility problems be remedied. Despite direct complaints from the residents, demands for a response to their complaints made by Westchester Residential Opportunities, Inc., and a lawsuit filed against the defendants by the Westchester County Human Rights Commission, the defendants failed to adequately correct many of the inaccessible features.
The Traceys, Kollers, and Ms. Grober initially filed an administrative complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”). Upon investigation, HUD determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that the Fair Housing Act had been violated by BEDFORD, CARNEGIE, and WMW ARCHITECTS. Thereafter, the Traceys, Kollers, and Ms. Grober elected, pursuant to the Fair Housing Act, to have HUD’s determination resolved in federal court.
In these circumstances, the Fair Housing Act authorizes the Department of Justice to commence an action in United States District Court on behalf Complainants. The United States may also assert other claims as warranted. The Complaint is brought on behalf of the Traceys, Kollers, and Ms. Grober against BEDFORD, CARNEGIE, and WMW ARCHITECTS, and on behalf of the United States against BEDFORD, CARNEGIE, WMW ARCHITECTS, JOBCO, and PASCUCCI, and seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and monetary damages for Complainants and other individuals injured by the defendants’ discriminatory conduct.
Mr. Bharara thanked HUD for its efforts in the investigation.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine S. Poscablo is in charge of the case.