Court Holds that Modifying a Side Entrance Does Not Constitute a Reasonable Accommodation

Housing providers are required, upon request, to make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities in their buildings. Previously, access through a side entrance, rather than a front entrance, had been found reasonable. However, a court recently held that when requested by a disabled resident, a building’s front entrance, rather than a side entrance, must be made handicapped-accessible unless doing so would create undue hardship or be architecturally infeasible. Riverbay Corp. v. NYCCHR, at 11 (Bronx 2011). The court stated that NYCCHR’s decision, “was based on its review of the material differences between the subject doorways, while an appropriate front door modification was not proven to be infeasible.” Id. at 9. The Court distinguished Riverbay from similar cases because Co-op City did not “conclusively establish that installation of handicap accessible doors was not reasonable or constituted an undue hardship.” Id. at 11. See Pelton v. 77 Park Ave. Condo, 38 A.D.3d 1 (1st Dept. 2006) (finding that access through the building's storage room was a reasonable accommodation after determining that the installation of ramps at the front entrance was both physically impractical and cost prohibitive); see Raymond v. 325 Cooperative, Inc., OATH Index No. 1423/98 (Jan. 12, 1999), modified on damages, Comm’n Dec. & Order (Feb. 24, 1999) (finding that an exterior elevator, rather than a front door entrance ramp, was not a reasonable accommodation due to known safety and reliability concerns associated with the proposed lift); see also Torres v. Prince Management Corp., OATH Index No. 301/98 (Aug. 14, 1997), aff’d, Comm’n Dec. & Order (Oct. 27, 1997), aff’d sub nom. Prince Management. Corp. v. Varela, NYLJ, July 29, 1998, at 22, col. 5 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co.) (holding that an accessible ramp be constructed in the basement entrance of the building, rather than ramping the building’s interior and exterior steps).

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