NEW YORK (TIP): An Indian-American architect has been ordered to pay thousands of dollars in compensation and penalty to settle a civil rights lawsuit, which alleged that a rental building designed by him and his firm had apartments inaccessible for persons with disabilities. Avinash Malhotra and his firm Avinash Malhotra Architects settled the federal civil rights lawsuit filed in 2013 under which he and his firm would retain an accessibility expert. The expert will review and advise them on each of their new design projects, train employees on the requirements of the federal housing regulations and allocate $45,000 to compensate people who had been affected by the inaccessible features of the building.
Malhotra would also pay a $35,000 civil penalty to the federal government. US attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said that the lawsuit alleged that Malhotra and his firm designed a 650-unit rental building in Lower Manhattan that violated the accessible design and construction provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act, which require that new multi-family housing complexes include certain features accessible to persons with disabilities.
The building had multiple inaccessible features, including insufficient space in bathrooms and kitchens for people in wheelchairs, high thresholds interfering with accessible routes, sinks, ranges, outlets and mailboxes not fully usable by people in wheelchairs and protruding objects not detectable by canes used by people with visual impairments. “As design professionals, architects have a clear obligation under the Fair Housing Act to ensure that residential buildings are accessible to people with disabilities,” Bharara said.
“When architects disregard that obligation, our office will use all the legal tools available to us to hold them responsible for such failures and craft remedies to ensure that their designs will be accessible in the future,” he said.