U.S. Attorney Files Civil Rights Suit Against Multifamily Developer Over Handicapped Access at Projects
John Jordan | September 2016
NEW YORK—U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced on Sept. 28 that the federal government had filed a civil rights suit against longtime Westchester developer Ginsburg Development Companies of Hawthorne for alleged design failures over handicapped access at two completed rental communities in Rockland County.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District also reported that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District had approved a preliminary injunction that was consented by Ginsburg Development that requires the firm to make four Westchester rental apartment communities under construction handicapped accessible. Litigation concerning the two Rockland County properties continues, although court papers indicate that settlement talks between the federal government and Ginsburg Development are ongoing.
The preliminary injunction requires Ginsburg Development to hire an experienced accessibility consultant as the FHA Reviewer for the four Westchester developments under construction—the Lofts on Saw Mill River (Hastings-on-Hudson), Harbor Square (Ossining), River Tides (Yonkers) and 1177 Warburton Ave. (Yonkers). Recently, Ginsburg held ribbon-cutting ceremonies on its Harbor Square and Lofts on Saw Mill River projects.
The federal government is seeking to have GDC make retrofits at its two completed rental projects in Haverstraw in Rockland County—Parkside and Riverside, built on the development company’s Harbors at Haverstraw condominium development. The U.S. Attorney stated that the lawsuit also seeks compensation for persons “who have been victims of the inaccessible conditions at Parkside and Riverside.”
“With today’s lawsuit and injunction, we seek to ensure the properties constructed by Ginsburg Development are accessible to those with disabilities as the law requires,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara. “Developers in this district should know that this office will use all available tools to enforce the FHA’s basic mandate that developers construct residential buildings accessible to people with disabilities.”
GDC in a statement released to Real Estate In-Depth, stated in response to the lawsuit and court-ordered preliminary injunction, “GDC recognizes the role of the Department of Justice in ensuring that buildings and public spaces are accessible to all disabled persons and compliant with FHA requirements. We work with our architects and other professionals and we design our buildings to ensure that those requirements and the needs of any disabled person who resides or visits our buildings are met. We have always been sensitive to the needs of disabled persons and we go well beyond the requirements of the FHA in making even further accommodations to their apartments.”
The statement continued, “That is why we have voluntarily entered into a consent order with the Department of Justice, pursuant to which we have retained an FHA reviewer to determine if, and correct if necessary, any FHA requirements that may have been inadvertently left unmet.”
GDC is a longtime residential builder in the Hudson Valley. The firm headed by principal Martin Ginsburg has also developed The Fairways at Wallkill condominium development in the Town of Wallkill and is currently marketing the single-family home community—Stone Hollow at Cornwall. Both developments are located in Orange County and were not part of the injunction or the lawsuit filed by the federal government.