The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Friday announced that it has charged a New Jersey Cooperative Corporation and its owners, Linwood Avenue Owners Inc., as well as property manager Rita Neary, with violating the Fair Housing Act for refusing to give a disabled man a handicapped parking space.
The charge alleges that in June 2002, Robert Dublirer purchased a unit at Mediterranean Towers South, a private apartment complex at 2000 Linwood Ave. in Fort Lee, N.J. At that time, he informed the board members of the cooperative that he would need a handicapped parking space. Dublirer is physically disabled and uses forearm crutches to assist him with his disability. The board told him that the facility did not have handicapped parking, but did offer him preferential parking. Dublirer believed that the preferential parking space he was offered was the equivalent of a handicapped space because it was close to the building, but ultimately discovered that it was not.
According to Dublirer, when he spoke to property manager Rita Neary to request a handicapped parking space as a reasonable accommodation, she told him that he would be assigned a regular parking space and that he would be placed on a list for preferred parking. Although the property also offers valet parking services, that service did not resolve Dublirer’s need for a handicapped parking space because most of the valet spaces are farther away than his assigned parking space.
HUD’s investigation found that in the summer of 2003 and again in November 2003, Dublirer repeated his request for a reasonable accommodation to the president of the board, David Hochstadt. According to Dublirer, Hochstadt responded that no additional accommodations could be made for him. Hochstadt further stated that Dublirer should get a motorized scooter or wheelchair to get inside of the building. Dublirer told Hochstadt that he felt there was no other recourse but for him to file a discrimination complaint with HUD, and Hochstadt allegedly told him, “You don’t want to do that.”
During the winter of 2003-2004, Dublirer had problems using his forearm crutches due to bad weather and because snow collected in the outdoor garage where his assigned space was located. He fell several times as he attempted to gain entry to the building and sustained physical injuries.
“No one with a disability should have to endure what Mr. Dublirer had to go through,” said Kim Kendrick, HUD’s assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “For a person with a mobility impairment, receiving a reasonable accommodation is the difference between being able to fully enjoy their home and feeling like they are a prisoner of their disability.”
Housing discrimination charges heard before an administrative law judge carry a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 for a first offense, in addition to actual damages for each complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorney’s fees. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1 (800) 669-9777 (voice), (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Additional information is available at www.hud.gov/fairhousing.