by Lucas A. Ferrara, Esq.
April 6, 2010
DEVELOPERS MUST MAKE HOUSING ACCESSIBLE
Yesterday, Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced agreements with six large real estate developers of rental apartment complexes to ensure equal access to housing for people with disabilities.
Under the agreements, the developers – Port Jefferson Town Properties, LLC; Fairfield Pinewoods, LLC; Hudson Park Investors, LLC and Collins Yonkers II, LLC; Regency Club at Wallkill, LLC; Riverbend at Wappingers Falls, LLC; and Main Street Lofts, LLC – must make or offer to make retrofits to apartments and common areas to ensure that people with disabilities have the full use and enjoyment of the facilities. The developers must also collectively pay $145,000 to compensate individuals who were harmed by the inaccessible housing. They will also work with an independent expert to certify that future construction of apartment complexes is in compliance with New York State and federal accessibility laws.
“Equal access to housing is a right guaranteed by law and no one should have problems living in their own home because they are disabled,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “My office is committed to enforcing fair housing and removing barriers for all New Yorkers.”
The Attorney General also filed a lawsuit against developer Trammell Crow for the company’s failure to remedy extensive inaccessible features in one of their complexes in New York State. Trammell Crow has developed more than 225,000 residential units across the country. The lawsuit alleges that Trammell Crow failed to design and construct Atlantic Point Apartments, a 795-unit complex in Bellport, New York, in compliance with the accessibility laws.
The Attorney General’s office found extensive design and construction barriers preventing full access by people with disabilities at the following apartment complexes:
•Atlantic Point Apartments, Bellport, New York
•Fairfield Knolls at Port Jefferson Station, Port Jefferson Station, New York
•Fairfield Knolls South, Coram, New York
•Hudson Park Apartments, Yonkers, New York
•Regency Club Apartments, Middletown, New York
•RiverBend Apartments, Wappingers Falls, New York
•66 Main Street Lofts, Yonkers, New York
Under the agreements, the six developers, who all cooperated with the Attorney General’s investigation, must complete retrofits for units and the common areas, including making sidewalks accessible by eliminating excess slopes and level changes. They must also provide accessible parking and routes to amenities such as pools, social rooms, mailboxes, and trash facilities. Furthermore, the agreements require retrofitting of bathrooms, kitchens, entryways, thermostats, and outlets in designated apartments.
Tenants living in the buildings will receive a notice advising them of the law and the structural changes to be made to the exterior and interior of their units. Tenants will be able to request additional modifications to increase accessibility. The modification will be free of charge to the tenants. Additionally, tenants who were harmed as a result the developers’ failure to construct the property as legally required will be eligible to receive restitution by submitting a claim to the Attorney General. The Attorney General will then evaluate the claims for compensation and disburse restitution from a $145,000 fund that will be paid by the developers.
The developers must also each hire a consultant, who must be approved by the Attorney General’s office, to conduct on-site inspections to determine whether retrofits have been completed as required by the agreement. The agreement also requires the developers to submit a certification to the Attorney General for all future construction confirming that they comply with the accessibility requirements under New York State and federal law.
Curtis Decker, Executive Director of the National Disability Rights Network, said, “We applaud Attorney General Cuomo for his commitment to the civil rights of all New Yorkers. These agreements ensure hundreds of accessible apartments for people with disabilities, and remind us that on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we still have work to do.”
Joe Bravo, Executive Director of the Westchester Independent Living Center, said, “Individuals living with disabilities need accessible housing to live. Accessible housing is not a luxury, but rather a necessity. If you cannot get into your apartment or into your bathroom, how can you function? It is unacceptable that buildings are still being constructed that do not comply with the law. Attorney General Cuomo’s investigation and the agreements he has secured hold developers accountable and will require that they make retrofits to these buildings. This is a significant victory.”
Stephen McLaughlin, Executive Director of the Action Towards Independence, a not-for-profit organization that provides assistance to disabled individuals in New York, said, “Attorney General Cuomo has put housing developers on notice that inaccessible housing that violates the law will not be tolerated in New York. Building accessible housing rarely costs developers more money but is invaluable to disabled individuals and their families.”
These cases are being handled by Assistants Attorney General Brooke P. Davis, Sunita Kini-Tandon, and Vilda Vera Mayuga, under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Alphonso B. David and Counsel for Civil Rights Spencer Freedman.
Information on Riverstone Residential, the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency, and the owners of Toxic Mold Infested Jefferson Lakes Apartments in Baton Rouge, Louisiana continuing to allow tenants to be exposed to extreme amounts of mold toxins
Irrefutable evidence indicates that Riverstone Residential, Guarantee Service Team of Professionals, & plaintiffs’ attorney, J Arthur Smith III, must have agreed to exclude evidence that would have shown the owners of Jefferson Lakes Apartments & Riverstone Residential had knowledge of the severe MOLD INFESTATION at the complex before we moved in
Political Action Committee – National Apartment Association (NAA) files Amicus Brief in mold case (two infant deaths in mold filled apt – Wasatch Prop Mgmt) citing US Chamber/ACOEM ‘litigation defense report’ to disclaim health effects of indoor mold & limit financial risk for industry
“Changes in construction methods have caused US buildings to become perfect petri dishes for mold and bacteria to flourish when water is added. Instead of warning the public and teaching physicians that the buildings were causing illness; in 2003 the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, a think-tank, and a workers comp physician trade organization mass marketed an unscientific nonsequitor to the courts to disclaim the adverse health effects to stave off liability for financial stakeholders of moldy buildings. Although publicly exposed many times over the years, the deceit lingers in US courts to this very day.” Sharon Noonan Kramer