“Accessibility Is Never an Option”

Photo © by Bernard Kleina

December 20, 2023

FHJC INVESTIGATION REVEALS DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION

Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced that it filed a housing discrimination lawsuit in the United States District Court Southern District of New York against developer Chess Builders LLC; owners 2337 Bedford LLC, Otts Ocean LLC, and Deegan 135 Realty LLC; and architects Wider Architect P.C., and Fischer+Makooi Architects PLLC alleging the Defendants designed and constructed inaccessible rental housing in the Bronx and Brooklyn.

The complaint stems from FHJC’s testing investigation of three Chess Builders rental properties conducted in 2022. The investigation revealed violations of the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

At The Arches, a 25-story, 430-unit rental building in the Bronx, FHJC testers found inaccessible features in the bedrooms, bathrooms, walk-in closets, common areas, and garage. The FHJC also tested 2337 Bedford Avenue, a 6-story 27-unit building in Brooklyn developed by Chess Builders and found that Defendants failed to provide required accessibility features in the parking garage, common areas, and apartments. At 1326 Ocean Avenue, an 8-story 116-unit rental building also in Brooklyn and developed by Chess Builders, FHJC testers found inaccessible features in the building’s common areas and units.

According to the complaint, Defendants’ failure to follow state and local civil rights laws constitutes illegal disability discrimination and perpetuates unequal housing opportunities. The FHJC is seeking injunctive relief to retrofit these three sites to bring them into compliance with the law and to prevent Defendants from building future inaccessible housing, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. The full complaint can be read HERE.

“Developers and architects are not above the law and must design and construct housing that conforms to required accessibility standards,” stated Cass Sicherer, the FHJC’s Disability Justice and Accessibility Legal Fellow. “Failure to do so perpetuates a long history of disability discrimination in which people with disabilities are unable to live in the housing of their choice. Accessibility is never an option; it is the law. This complaint is an example of the FHJC’s determination create accessible communities and fight housing discrimination.”

The FHJC is represented by Attorneys Diane L. Houk, Sara Luz Estela, and Laura S. Kokotailo with the law firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward and Maazel LLP.

The mission of the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC), a nonprofit civil rights organization, is to eliminate housing discrimination; promote policies and programs that foster open, accessible, and inclusive communities; and strengthen enforcement of fair housing laws in the New York City region.