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“There is a Real Cost to Ignoring the Law and Building Inaccessible Housing”

Photo © by Bernard Kleina

November 16, 2023


The Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) has reached a resolution with defendants JDS Development LLC; 616 First Avenue LLC; American Copper Building LLC; AH American Copper LLC, and MS American Copper LLC., in a disability discrimination case involving a pair of luxury New York City apartment buildings. The original complaint, filed by FHJC in June 2019, alleged that Defendants failed to comply with accessibility requirements in the design and construction of the 761-unit American Copper Buildings located at 626 1st Avenue in Manhattan and the 51-unit 202 Eighth Street development in Brooklyn. The lawsuit stemmed from a 2018 testing investigation conducted by FHJC. 

Under an initial settlement in March 2021, approved by federal District Court Judge Analisa Torres, Defendants JDS Development LLC, 616 First Avenue LLC, 202 8th LLC, SHoP Architects LLP, Property Markets Group, Inc.; Werber Management, Inc., and 202 Park Slope LLC agreed to extensive injunctive relief and Defendants JDS, SHoP and PMG also agreed to pay $2.9 million to resolve the case, the largest monetary settlement obtained by FHJC to date. 

A year after that original settlement, 616 First Avenue LLC sold, assigned, and transferred all of its interest in the American Copper Buildings to American Copper Building LLC, AH American Copper LLC, and MS American Copper LLC, which are affiliated with Black Spruce Management LLC. 

In contravention of the original agreement, Defendants had failed to fully remediate the building, and as a result, FHJC re-opened its lawsuit and filed an Amended Complaint on July 14, 2023. HERE

The parties have now agreed in a Revised Settlement Agreement that the majority of the remediation will occur by November 15, 2023, and that Defendants will incur penalties for future non-compliance of the agreed-upon deadlines. Defendant also agreed to $800,000 in monetary relief. The Agreement was so-ordered by Judge Torres on November 14, 2023. HERE 

FHJC Executive Director Elizabeth Grossman stated “It is unfortunate that the original settlement terms were not complied with in a timely manner and that it took filing an Amended Complaint to accomplish the goals of the original settlement, but we are pleased that the remediations of the inaccessible areas will soon be completed. The FHJC will continue to pursue claims against those who violate fair housing laws so that people with disabilities will have access to safe and secure housing.” 

“This is an unprecedented result, with a total of $3.7M in funds, a detailed remediation schedule, and the adoption of policies and training to ensure future compliance. Developers and their teams must understand there is a real cost to ignoring the law and building inaccessible housing – to the lives of those who live with disabilities and to a community that cannot access new housing,” said Alice Reiter, who along with Eric Hecker and Mariann Wang of Cuti Hecker Wang LLP represented FHJC. 

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).