The Fair Housing Justice Center has sued Lighthouse Living LLC, a White Plains developer of apartments, for allegedly discriminating against prospective renters who are disabled.
FHJC is demanding that Lighthouse and two affiliates change how they design and construct apartment buildings, in a complaint filed May 27 in U.S. District Court in White Plains.
“Lighthouse systematically violates fair housing laws by developing buildings and offering rental dwelling to the public that are not accessible for individuals with disabilities,” the complaint states, “making them impossible to live in.”
Lighthouse Living did not respond to an email asking for its side of the story.
The company was founded by David Mann of Armonk, according to its website, and has developed 10 apartment buildings.
FHJC is a nonprofit civil rights organization based in Long Island City that looks for discriminatory housing practices in New York City and seven surrounding counties.
In 2018, it sent testers – individuals posing as friends or family members of prospective renters who use wheelchairs – to inquire about apartments. The testers measured the common-use areas of the buildings and looked for barriers, such as inaccessible thermostats and narrow spaces, that would be difficult to use by someone in a wheelchair.
Two men posing as brothers inspected One Dekalb, a 6-story, 76-unit apartment building in White Plains. They allegedly found an extremely heavy entrance door that tenants would have to handle in a non-doorman building. Mailboxes in the lobby and environmental controls in five apartments were inaccessible, the threshold to the rooftop terrace entrance was high, two walk-in closet doors were too narrow, and one of the bathrooms had inadequate space, according to the complaint, for someone in a wheelchair to maneuver.
FHJC dispatched a couple posing as a husband and wife to inspect The Light House, a five-story, 50-unit building in Port Chester. The entrance was inaccessible, according to the lawsuit, a large gap at the rooftop entrance impeded access to the deck, and the two kitchens they viewed had inadequate space for maneuvering a wheelchair.
The Light House leasing agent suggested that the couple also check out Wood Works, a five-story, 36-unit building in Harrison. The testers allegedly found inaccessible mailboxes, light switches, electric outlets and environmental controls.
FHJC accuses Lighthouse Living of violating the federal Fair Housing Act and the New York Human Rights Law. It wants the judge to order the company to change how it designs and builds apartments, train its employees on fair housing laws, allow monitoring of its properties and compensate the organization for the costs of the investigation.
The complaint also names as defendants J&J Management Services, a Carmel company that purportedly manages One Dekalb and Wood Works, and Papp Architects PC, a White Plains firm that allegedly designed all three buildings. Neither company responded to requests for their sides of the story.
FHJC is represented by Manhattan attorneys Alice G. Reiter and John R. Cuti.