Manhattan U.S. Attorney Brings And Simultaneously Settles Civil Rights Suit Against Manhattan Rental Complex For Fair Housing Act Violations

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has filed and simultaneously settled a civil rights lawsuit in Manhattan federal court against the developer, architect, and current owners of Hudson Crossing, a residential apartment complex in Manhattan, alleging that the apartment complex is inaccessible to disabled people.

The complaint alleges that 475 Ninth Avenue Associates (“nINTH AVENUE”) the complex developer, and H. Thomas O’Hara Architects (“O’HARA”), the designers, violated the design and construction provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act, which require that new multi-family housing complexes include certain features to accommodate those with disabilities. The U.S. also sued THE DERMOT COMPANY (“DERMOT”), an affiliate of the developer, and EQR-HUDSON CROSSING (“EQR”), the current owner of Hudson Crossing, to compel them to implement retrofits that would render the apartment complex accessible.

The settlement agreement, in the form of a consent decree, was approved yesterday by United States District Judge Jesse Furman. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “This settlement will ensure that Hudson Crossing is in compliance with federal law, and thereby accessible to individuals with disabilities. It will also compensate those who were illegally denied access to rental units at the complex. This Office remains committed to enforcing the law to ensure that the rental housing market in New York City is fully accessible to those with disabilities as required by law.”

According to the Complaint filed May 25, 2012, Hudson Crossing, a 259-unit apartment complex building located at 400 West 37th Street in Manhattan, was designed and constructed with many inaccessible features. The features include bedroom, bathroom, closet, and terrace doorways that are too narrow to be used by people in wheelchairs; excessively high thresholds in both the common areas and individual apartments that interfere with wheelchair-accessible routes; insufficient clear floor spaces in kitchens, bathrooms, and trash rooms to accommodate wheelchairs; common area doors that are inoperable for people with certain disabilities; and a leasing office that is inaccessible for the visually impaired, and for people who use wheelchairs.

In the consent decree, NINTH AVENUE and O’HARA acknowledge that both the public and common areas at Hudson Crossing and the individual units have features that do not comply with the accessibility standards established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under the Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines. To address these inaccessible features, the consent decree requires DERMOT and EQR to remove obstacles to accessibility at Hudson Crossing. They must also retrofit three apartments at Hudson Crossing to include features that go above and beyond the standard of basic accessibility required under the Fair Housing Act. Further, DERMOT, O’HARA, and EQR must train their employees on the requirements of the Fair Housing Act, and DERMOT and O’HARA are required to construct any new apartment buildings in compliance with that statute. Finally, DERMOT is required to dedicate $115,000 to compensate people who have been harmed by Fair Housing Act violations at Hudson Crossing, and pay a $20,000 civil penalty to the United States.
Mr. Bharara thanked the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division for its assistance in the case.

The case is being handled by the Office's Civil Rights Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Li Yu, Emily E. Daughtry, and Carina H. Schoenberger are in charge of the case.

Individuals who were injured or discouraged from living at Hudson Crossing because of the lack of accessible features, who paid to have an apartment at Hudson Crossing made accessible, or who were otherwise discriminated against on the basis of disability as a result of the design or construction of Hudson Crossing may be entitled to receive monetary compensation.