Three women were attracted to Sutton Manor’s “55+ adult community” because it advertised itself as accessible to people with disabilities, but after they moved into the Mount Kisco condos they discovered numerous impediments.
A person in a wheelchair couldn’t open heavy doors, reach mailboxes, maneuver over a 4-inch lip to the shower stalls, navigate through a narrow kitchen or squeeze through the access to the washing machine and dryer.
On March 1, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine S. Poscablo sued the Sutton Manor developer and architects for discriminating against people with disabilities, under the Fair Housing Act.
The lawsuit names three Great Neck, Long Island companies – Bedford Development LLC, Carnegie Construction Corp., and Jobco Inc. – their owner or principal, Robert Pascucci, Elmsford-based Warshauer Mellusi Warshauer Architects and Sutton Manor board of managers.
The case was filed on behalf of condo owners Ina Grober, Linda and Michael Tracey and Gloria and Mark Koller. Linda Tracey uses an electric wheelchair and Gloria Keller and Grober use walkers.
Pascucci’s attorneys, Ronald Rosenberg and Gary Lewi, responded that the lawsuit does not tell the whole story or truth and they expect the case to be resolved in his favor.
Pascucci bought the land in 2000, the complaint states, approved the designs and oversaw construction. He also oversaw unit sales and after the condominiums opened in 2007 responded to complaints as president of the board of managers until late 2013 when the last unit was sold.
Sutton Manor, 234 N. Bedford Road, had advertised as being “ADA compliant,” referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Nine condo owners asked the developer to remedy access problems, the complaint states, before the building opened. Westchester Residential Opportunities Inc., an advocate of nondiscriminatory housing, also sent a letter to the developer on behalf of buyers regarding accessibility and received no response.
Less than a year after Sutton Manor opened, Westchester County Human Rights Commission filed a complaint against the developer and architects. The commission ruled in 2010 that they had failed to design or build accessible doors and mailboxes.
Rosenberg said the human rights commission acted on behalf of the owners of all 47 condominiums. It did a comprehensive investigation, analyzed all complaints and made an agreement with Pascucci to resolve the dispute. Pascucci made the fixes to everyone’s satisfaction and the commission signed off on the case in 2011.
“Three unit owners, for reasons known to themselves, chose to opt out,” Rosenberg said. “We wanted to have a universal settlement with all unit owners and the human rights commission, and 44 out of 47 were on board.”
Grober, the Traceys and the Kollers filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2010, identifying more building features that had not been fixed.
Last year, HUD charged the developer and architects with discrimination, and the owners chose to have the case filed as a civil action by the attorney general.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is asking the federal court in White Plains to declare that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act, enjoin them from discriminating in the sale or rental of units and to award damages to the complainants.
Rosenberg said Pascucci takes pride in his work and takes his obligations seriously. “When this was brought to his attention ten years ago, he addressed it, he didn’t hide, he didn’t run. He sat down with the agencies and people and worked out a mutually accepted remedy.”
A representative of Warshauer Architects did not respond to requests for comment and the firm’s attorney said court papers have not yet been served so he was unable to respond to specific allegations.