Brooklyn condo discriminated against people with disabilities, HUD alleges

HUD said North 8 Condominium in Williamsburg was built in a way that violates the Fair Housing Act. 
HUD said North 8 Condominium in Williamsburg was built in a way that violates the Fair Housing Act. 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced charges Monday against developers and architects of a Brooklyn condominium that allegedly discriminated against people with disabilities.

The charges name Toll Brothers, Greenberg Farrow Architecture and others involved with the design and construction of North 8 Condominium — a 40-unit residence in Williamsburg. 

HUD said multifamily buildings constructed after March 1991 must contain features that make them accessible and functional for people in wheelchairs, but these mandates were not met in the development of the condominium in question on which crews began construction in 2006 and which received its certificate of occupancy in 2011, according to charges.

"HUD will continue to take action to bring inaccessible housing into compliance with the law," Paul Compton, HUD’s general counsel, said in a statement. "These features are less expensive to provide at the time of construction than after the building has been completed."

Citing the pending action by HUD, Toll Brothers’ spokeswoman Kira Sterling said the company could not comment.

Greenberg Farrow Architecture did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

The charges note that the development’s entry has too steep of a slope, does not have enough space between the interior vestibule door and the sliding door to maneuver a wheelchair and that its intercom, mailboxes, lobby desk and various doors in both common areas and individual dwellings are inaccessible. 

The city Department of Buildings said it reviews plans for compliance with city codes, including its accessibility standards, when issuing certificates of occupancy, but it cannot enforce federal standards, such as the Fair Housing Act.

“Licensed design professionals, who are hired for their expertise, should be familiar with all City, State, and Federal rules," Department of Buildings spokesman Andrew Rudansky said in a statement. "Federal regulations on accessibility have been in effect for more than 30 years, and DOB advises all applicants to fully comply with all applicable regulations.”

HUD, in the charges, requested that the development be brought into compliance, with owners and tenants receiving compensation for any inconveniences caused by the retrofitting, and that the developer face the maximum civil penalty for each discriminatory housing practice.

Penalties in these sorts of cases range from $16,000 for the first violation to $105,000 for multiple violations, according to Shantae Goodloe, a spokeswoman for HUD. 

She noted that those charged have until Sept. 23 to decide whether they want the matter heard by an administrative law judge or in a federal court. 

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