The owner and developer of a luxury apartment building on the Upper West Side will be paying thousands of dollars to residents with disabilities following the legal settlement of a federal civil rights lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman has ruled that L & M 93rd Street LLC and Costas Kondylis & Partners LLP Architects prohibited access for people with disabilities in their building, The Melar. Neither company could be reached for comment.
The complaint was filed in October 2010 charging the defendants with violating the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and New York City law in design and construction of the 22-story building, which was built in 2007. The lawsuit charged that the building was inaccessible in its public and common areas, routes into and through its 143 apartments, light switches, electrical outlets, kitchens and bathrooms.
The building at 250 West 93rd Street has 24-hour lobby attendants, a fitness center and landscaped terrace. One and two bedroom apartments have a monthly rent in the range of $3,500 to $4,500 per month and studios cost $2,850.
According to a consent decree settling the case on July 25, the developer will perform accessibility upgrades to the building, including reconfiguring bathrooms, kitchens, closets and living rooms. They will also establish a fund of $180,000 to compensate people with disabilities who were harmed by the building’s lack of accessibility either by being injured or discouraged from living there as a result of its lack of accessibility or having to pay for their own accessibility upgrades.
The developer and architect will also pay $40,000 each in civil penalties and initiate training for employees about the FHA, which has required accessibility in housing since 1991.
In addition, the developer will create an Accessibility Project Fund with $288,300 to be used either for facility construction or the provision of services to people with disabilities. The developer and architect are required to construct all future apartments in compliance with the FHA and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is an important safeguard for those with disabilities and helps ensure that they can enjoy full use of and access to their living spaces. Architects, owners and developers play a key role in making sure that these requirements are met, and when they fail to do so, this office will hold them accountable.”
The decision could impact other real estate developers who had historically assumed that compliance with City accessibility laws that predate the FHA were sufficient. A representative of the Real Estate Board of New York told Crain’s New York Business that hundreds of real estate developers who have complied with City laws could also be in violation of the FHA, opening the possibility that others could be charged.
This article was published in the September 2011 issue of Able News.