Ruling Might Require Retrofitting Front Entrances for Disabled Tenants
In a decision that affects all residential buildings in New York City, a Bronx Supreme Court recently ruled that front entrances must be made handicapped-accessible at the request of a disabled resident, unless doing so would be physically impractical and cost prohibitive.
This marks a potentially expensive change. Building owners have traditionally been able to satisfy the “reasonable accommodation” requirement of the NYC Human Rights Law by providing access through a side entrance or a service entrance, which in many cases may come pre-equipped with a ramp used for deliveries.
It appears that won't be good enough anymore. The judge in RiverBay Corp. v. N.Y.S. Commission on Human Rights found that an isolated, remote-controlled side entrance—lacking security guards and video surveillance—was so “meaningfully different” from the front entrance that it made a “second-class citizen” of a wheelchair-bound co-op owner suffering from cerebral palsy. In the wake of the RiverBay decision, side entrances will satisfy the law only where retrofitting the front entrance is impossible. Five years ago in Pelton v. 77 Park Ave. Condo, for example, an appellate court found that a condominium's offer of a temporary access plan accompanied by long-term access through the building's storage room was a reasonable accommodation only after the court determined that installing ramps at the front entrance was both physically impractical and cost prohibitive.