Durst Organization charged with Fair Housing Act violations

Developer’s Helena tower inadequately accessible to disabled tenants, US attorney claims

From left: Douglas Durst and 601 West 57th Street
From left: Douglas Durst and 601 West 57th Street

Federal prosecutors slapped the Durst Organization with a lawsuit Wednesday, charging that the developer’s Helena tower is in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

The luxury tower at 601 West 57th Street and Eleventh Avenue lacks sufficient space to accommodate wheelchairs, the suit charges, making it inaccessible to tenants with disabilities. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara leveled the suit against the developer of the 38-story complex, saying the property is the latest in a series of property projects that flout FHA guidelines.

“This is now the eighth lawsuit we have filed in recent years to address the failure of real estate developers in New York City to comply with the law,” Bharara told the New York Daily News. “Developers and architects who show an unwillingness to design and construct housing that complies with the law can no longer seek to evade the consequences of their actions.”

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The suit, which seeks a court order halting work at current Durst projects until the problems at the Helena are corrected, also takes issue with thresholds that are allegedly too high, kitchens and bathrooms with too little space for wheelchair maneuvering and mailboxes that are not properly accessible to tenants with disabilities. Durst, who was previously in talks to try to reach a settlement with the U.S. Attorney’s office, could be forced to shell out millions to correct the issues, according to the Daily News.

The suit comes on the heels of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s attempt to slap the Related Companies with a similar lawsuit, charging the developer with FHA issues at 215 East 96th Street and 325 North End Avenue. [NYDN]Julie Strickland