New York Apartment Complex Will Be Retrofitted for Accessibility


On July 25, 2011, the developer and architect of a 143-unit residential apartment complex in New York, New York, entered into consent decrees with the Department of Justice resolving a lawsuit that alleged they violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in the design and construction of The Melar, a 22-story apartment building on the upper west side of Manhattan. The lawsuit, filed on September 30, 2010, alleged that the defendants failed to provide kitchens and bathrooms that are usable by people with disabilities, failed to provide accessible routes into and within the apartment units, failed to make public and common areas accessible for people with disabilities, and located light switches, electrical outlets, and other controls in inaccessible locations. The lawsuit also alleged that The Melar’s design and construction violated the accessibility provisions of New York City law.

The consent decree with L&M 93rd Street LLC, the developer and owner of The Melar, requires the company to pay all costs related to retrofitting common areas to make them accessible to people with disabilities and reconfiguring the bathrooms, kitchens, and closets in apartments; some of the retrofits to the apartments are mandatory and some are upon the request of the tenants. In addition, the developer will establish a fund in the amount of $288,300 to make additional improvements for the benefit of people with disabilities.

The L&M consent decree also establishes a settlement fund of $180,000 to compensate individuals harmed by the lack of accessible features at The Melar. Anyone who believes that he or she may be entitled to monetary relief should write to the Chief of the Civil Rights Unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, 86 Chambers Street, Third Floor, New York, New York, 10007, or contact the Civil Rights Complaint Line at 212-637-2987 (voice) or 212-637-0039 (TTY).

The consent decree with Costas Kondylis & Partners, LLP, the architectural firm that designed the building, as well as the L&M consent decree, requires both companies to undergo training on the requirements of the FHAA and pay a civil penalty to the United States in the amount of $40,000 each.

“The Fair Housing Act is an important safeguard for those with disabilities and helps ensure that they can enjoy full use of and access to their living spaces,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “Architects, owners and developers play a key role in making sure that these requirements are met, and when they fail to do so, this Office will hold them accountable.”

Universal Design (UD) is an approach to design that increases the potential for developing a better quality of life for a wide range of individuals. It is a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation (Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012). It creates products, systems, and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.