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Final Settlement Reached in Disability Discrimination Case

Photo © by Bernard Kleina

May 21, 2024

DEVELOPERS HAVE COMPLETED TWICE-ORDERED RETROFITS

The Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced today it has entered into a final settlement agreement with Defendants American Copper Building LLC, AH American Copper LLC, and MS American Copper LLC.

The case originally stemmed from a 2018 testing investigation by the FHJC which revealed alleged accessibility violations in the design and construction of several New York City luxury apartment buildings. That original lawsuit settled in March 2021 with Defendants agreeing to pay $2.9 million and to make extensive accessibility-related retrofits in a timely manner.

In July 2023, the FHJC amended its complaint to allege that the retrofits had not been fully completed within the required timeframe. That lawsuit resulted in an $800,000 settlement payment and commitment to completing the majority of the remaining required retrofits by November 15, 2023, with strict penalties for failure to meet agreed-upon deadlines.

Under the final settlement announced today, the FHJC acknowledges that Defendants have now fully completed all remediations required under both the 2021 and 2023 settlements. While admitting no wrongdoing, Defendants also agreed to pay the FHJC an additional $285,000 and to comply with all fair housing laws.

“As we have repeatedly stated during this and other disability discrimination cases: Accessibility is not a luxury, a novelty, or an optional design feature. It is a civil right,” said FHJC Executive Director and General Counsel Elizabeth Grossman. “The FHJC will not be deterred from our work of investigating and litigating violations of that right.”

Attorney Mariann Meier Wang added, “The initial 2021 payment of $2.9 million was already the largest monetary settlement ever obtained by the FHJC. Defendants’ repeated failures to comply have brought the total payments to nearly $4 million. That unprecedented figure, along with the extensive remediation and other injunctive relief, should give developers in New York and around the country real pause before they consider cutting corners in residential design and construction or flouting court ordered retrofitting deadlines.”

The FHJC was represented by Ms. Wang, Alice. G. Reiter, and Eric Hecker with the law firm of Cuti Hecker Wang LLP

The settlement was approved and signed by federal District Court Judge Analisa Torres. The full text of the settlement can be read HERE.

 FHJC’s original investigation in this case was supported with funding from a Private Enforcement Initiative (PEI) grant received from the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

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