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Feds Poised for NYC Crackdown re Claimed Fair Housing Construction Violations

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Feds Poised for NYC Crackdown re Claimed Fair Housing Construction Violations

Aug 25, 2008, 07:15 pm CDT

Although real estate developers and property managers deny wrongdoing, it appears that perhaps 100,000 rental apartments built in New York City since 1991 may have to be retrofitted. That’s because they allegedly don’t meet federal requirements under the Fair Housing Act for accessibility by physically handicapped residents.

“The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan has sent letters to some of the city’s most prominent landlords and architects, saying they risk prosecution under the Fair Housing Act because, the prosecutors said, their buildings are not accessible to people with disabilities,” reports the New York Times.

Among the issues that can make life difficult for residents of nonconforming units are too-narrow doorways, too-high kitchen cupboards and window latches, and light switches and thermostats that are unreachable, according to the article.

Handicapped residents are often reluctant to complain about building management, and Roberta Galler, a psychoanalyst who lives in Battery Park City, is no exception. But the 72-year-old, whose childhood polio helped put her in a wheelchair a few years ago, says she can’t, for example, fit it into her bedroom closet or the bathroom. To load and unload the dishwasher in her kitchen, she has to twist around and lean backwards, because her wheelchair is blocked by the dishwasher door when it’s open for use.

Her apartment is in a high-rise building constructed in 1999.

Although handicapped accessibility requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act haven’t been stringently enforced for years, that apparently is changing. The U.S. Department of Justice recently filed its first lawsuit in Manhattan against a developer, as discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post.

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