United States Settles Fair Housing Act Lawsuits Against Affordable Housing Developer For Failure To Construct Apartments With Features Accessible To Persons With Disabilities | USAO-SDNY

Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has settled two related federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) lawsuits against ATLANTIC DEVELOPMENT GROUP, LLC (“ATLANTIC”).  Under the settlement, ATLANTIC has agreed to make retrofits at 71 rental buildings in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Westchester County, which together contain more than 6,000 affordable units as well as several hundred market-rate apartments.  ATLANTIC also agreed to provide $600,000 to compensate aggrieved persons and pay a $30,000 civil penalty.  Additionally, ATLANTIC agreed to establish procedures to ensure that its future residential development projects will comply with the accessibility requirements of the FHA.  The settlement was approved today by U.S. District Judge Lewis J. Liman. 

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “The Fair Housing Act protects people with disabilities from being treated as second-class citizens when it comes to housing.  This right applies equally to residents in affordable housing as to those living in luxury high-rises.  Today’s settlement is part of this Office’s long-standing effort to fulfill the FHA’s promise of accessibility for people with disabilities and a reminder to real estate developers that we will continue to enforce the FHA’s accessibility requirements vigorously.”

The FHA’s accessible design and construction provisions require multifamily housing complexes constructed after January 1991 to have basic features accessible to persons with disabilities.  The settlement with ATLANTIC is the 17th settlement reached by this Office with developers and architects to remedy inaccessible housing in this District.  It was reached after the Court denied in its entirety ATLANTIC’s motion to dismiss.

According to the allegations in the complaints in the two FHA cases, a recurring pattern of inaccessible conditions exists at ATLANTIC’s rental buildings, including excessively high thresholds at building entrances and entrances to common use areas, ramps that lack handrails on both sides, common use bathrooms that lack grab bars and pipe insulation, excessively high thresholds at entrances to individual apartments and within the apartments, and bathrooms in individual apartments that lack sufficient clear floor space for people who use wheelchairs.   ATLANTIC admitted in the court-ordered settlement stipulation that features in the common use areas of their buildings, as well as in their buildings’ apartment interiors, did not meet the specifications set forth in the Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines, Design Guidelines for Accessible/Adaptable Dwellings.

Under the settlement, ATLANTIC agreed to make retrofits to the public and common use areas as well as the individual units at its 71 rental buildings to improve accessibility at those buildings.  The settlement also requires ATLANTIC 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, ATLANTIC agreed to institute policies and training to ensure that its employees and agents will comply with the FHA’s accessibility requirements.

Finally, the settlement requires ATLANTIC to provide $600,000 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 one of Atlantic’s rental buildings because of the lack of accessible features;
  • Have been hurt in any way by the lack of accessible features at one of Atlantic’s rental buildings;
  • Paid to have an apartment at one of Atlantic’s rental buildings made more accessible to persons with disabilities; or
  • Otherwise were discriminated against on the basis of disability at one of Atlantic’s rental buildings 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, ATLANTIC agreed to pay a civil penalty of $30,000.

The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Li Yu, Jacob Lillywhite, Steven Kochevar, and David J. Kennedy are in charge of the case.

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Author: Editor
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