Sounding the Alarm: Deaf Tenants Sue Forsyth Street Landlords Over Living Conditions
Deaf tenants in HUD housing on the Lower East Side are filing a class action lawsuit after years of purported neglect.
The crux of the complaint – which will reported be filed this week in Brooklyn’s federal court on behalf of Elewood Torres – is the alarm systems in the buildings comprising 174-184 Forsyth Street. Apparently, the warning systems are audio-only; clearly useless in a complex for the hearing impaired.
Plaintiffs’ Attorney Andrew Lieb said the case is about providing long-asked-for safety and accessibility at the two buildings, a subject covered in a 2020 Bowery Boogie article.
“That’s our case in a nutshell: we don’t want to burn to death,” he said.
174-184 Forsyth Street was constructed in March 1994 specifically for low-income deaf and hearing-impaired tenants. New York Society for the Deaf owns the six-story, half-block complex, which was financed by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Tenants allege years of neglect that led to extreme disrepair and lack of security. Horror stories abounded in that time – such as broken toilets, ceilings collapsing, mold throughout apartments and hallways, and rodent infestations. Indeed, one apartment reportedly had a rat skeleton fall through a hole in the ceiling.
And then there are the elevators … which have proven unreliable.
The complaint is expected to accuse ownership of blatantly violating the Americans With Disabilities Act and the city’s human rights law, Lieb said. It will go further, and ask demand installation offire alarms with high-intensity strobe lights and vibration notification appliances, as well as video systems in the elevators.