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U.S. Attorney Files Civil Rights Suit Against Westchester Developer

United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara filed a lawsuit Wednesday against a Westchester development company for failing to access to the disabled at its properties.
United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara filed a lawsuit Wednesday against a Westchester development company for failing to access to the disabled at its properties. Photo Credit: U.S. Justice Department

A Federal civil rights lawsuit was filed Wednesday against a local construction company, Ginsburg Development, for failing to make several of its projects accessible to people with disabilities in Westchester and Rockland counties, according to Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The projects, two in Rockland County that are completed, and four rental complexes in Westchester, fail to offer access that is required by federal law.

In addition to the lawsuit, a court-ordered preliminary injunction was also granted that requires the company to make all of the properties accessible, Bharara said.

“With today’s lawsuit and injunction, we seek to ensure that properties built by Ginsburg Development are accessible to those with disabilities, as the law requires. 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,” Bharara said.

According to the allegations in the complaint, Ginsburg Development recently designed and built rental complexes that have a number of inaccessible features, including excessively high thresholds interfering with accessible routes into individual units, insufficient spaces in bathrooms and kitchens for people in wheelchairs, and doors in both individual units and common areas that are not wide enough to accommodate people in wheelchairs.

Gingburg Development Companies said it 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," company officials said in a statement. " 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."

Company officials added that they have voluntarily entered into the consent order with the Department of Justice, and have retained an FHA reviewer to determine if, and correct if necessary, any FHA requirements that may have been inadvertently left unmet.

The lawsuit was filed in order to make Ginsburg Development install retrofits at the two completed complexes known as Parkside and Riverside, in Haverstraw, and to modify the company's policies, procedures, and training, as well as to pay a civil penalty,  Bharara said.

The lawsuit also seeks compensation for residents who have been victims of the inaccessible conditions at Parkside and Riverside, he added.

The company is currently in settlement negotiations to resolve the claims against the two Rockland properties that have already been constructed.

The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Li Yu, Natasha Teleanu, Jessica Jean Hu, and Jacob Lillywhite are in charge of the case.

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