HUD accuses Toll Brothers of discriminating against residents with disabilities

Agency also charged Sordoni Construction, Henry T. O'Hara Jr.

Jul.July 02, 2018 05:02 PM

David Von Spreckelsen, Ben Carson, and 5-09 48th Avenue (Credit: Getty Images)

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has accused Toll Brothers of discriminating against persons with disabilities at a Long Island City condominium building.

The developer’s Fifth Street Lofts at 5-09 48th Avenue features “extensive design and construction deficiencies” that make certain parts of the eight-story building inaccessible to people with disabilities, HUD announced Monday. In addition to Toll Brothers, the condo building’s architect, Henry T. O’Hara Jr., and the construction company that worked on the project, Sordoni Construction, were also charged with violating the Fair Housing Act.

Representatives for the developer, architect and construction company couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

According to HUD, the building “lacked safe and accessible routes” for disabled residents and others to travel between their condo units and common areas. Such “deficiencies” were allegedly found in the building’s main entrance, a shared outdoor terrace, the parking garage, hallways connecting common areas and trash rooms. The agency says it also discovered “widespread violations” inside individual condos, including inaccessible bathrooms, kitchens and doors.

HUD inspected the property after receiving a complaint from a resident in the building. The resident, who uses a wheelchair, noted during her tour of the under-construction apartment in July 2008 that certain features of the unit didn’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to HUD’s complaint. In November of that year, Toll Brothers’ construction manager sent an email to a representative for the project’s architect, asking if the building needed to comply with the Fair Housing Act, to which he allegedly replied, “We believe the Fair Housing Act does not apply to [New York City].”

The case will be heard before a U.S. Administrative Law Judge, unless one of the parties involved opts to move the case to federal court.

The New York Times reported earlier this year that HUD was investigating Toll Brothers and Ohio-based Epcon Communities over accessibility issues in their buildings. The investigations were put on hold in November, however, amid the Trump administration’s efforts to scale back enforcement of fair housing laws, the Times reported.

In its announcement on Monday, HUD noted that this year marks the 30th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. According to HUD, the agency has been working to raise awareness about the act.

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