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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
October 18, 2005

Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General

 

Lee Moore
609-292-4791

 

AG Harvey Announces Finding of Probable Cause in Housing Discrimination Case; Condominium Association Accused of Failing to Accommodate Legally Blind Resident

TRENTON – Attorney General Peter C. Harvey and Division on Civil Rights Director J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo announced today that New Jersey has issued a Finding of Probable Cause against the community association at an Atlantic County condominium complex for failing to accommodate the needs of a blind resident endangered by a potentially hazardous condition in the parking area.

Named as a Respondent in the Finding of Probable Cause document is the Community Association of Mays Landing. The Community Association is accused of creating a danger to blind resident Terrence Keith Black earlier this year by failing to relocate a parking space that, when occupied, allegedly forced Black to deviate from his normal walking path to his mailbox. The situation allegedly hindered the ability of approaching motorists to see Black, and placed him in danger of being struck by a passing car. According to his original Complaint, Black informed the Community Association in January 2005 that a walkway he used to reach his mailbox each day was often blocked by another condo owner’s large truck, and the truck could have been assigned a different parking space. To accommodate his disability, Black asked that the Community Association direct the truck owner to park his vehicle in a different space.

The Association allegedly responded that it was not required to force another member to move his or her vehicle from a designated parking space. In addition, Director Vespa-Papaleo noted, the Association allegedly refused Black’s request that it consider revising its parking rules to accommodate his recognized disability. As a result, the Director explained, probable cause exists to credit Black’s allegations. A Finding of Probable Cause means the State has finished its investigation, and has determined there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion that the actions of The Woodlands Community Association violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD).

“This alleged behavior demeans humanity by imposing upon the blind unnecessary obstacles,” said Attorney General Harvey. “Condominium associations and others who offer housing must reasonably accommodate people with visual limitations and physical disabilities.”

“In this case, the denial of a reasonable accommodation is dangerous to Mr. Black’s safety,” Harvey added.

Director Vespa-Papaleo explained that the matter at issue “was investigated by our Housing Unit, which has been successful in the fight against discrimination in housing, especially for individuals with disabilities.”

“New Jersey law is clear that condominium associations and owners of rental property must reasonably accommodate tenants and owners who are legally blind and attempting to use common areas of a dwelling or condominium property,” said Vespa-Papaleo.

In the wake of the Finding of Probable Cause, the case is now in a phase known as Conciliation. Conciliation is a statutorily-required last settlement process. Should Conciliation not resolve the matter, the case will be referred to a state Administrative Law Judge.

The New Jersey LAD prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. If found to have unlawfully denied Mr. Black a reasonable accommodation on the basis of his disability, the respondent could be required to pay up to $10,000 in penalties, submit to training, revise policies and pay the Complainant for compensatory and pain/humiliation damages.

The Division on Civil Rights within the Attorney General’s Office is responsible for enforcing the LAD and the Family Leave Act. Specifically, the Division investigates allegations of discrimination in employment, housing, places of public accommodation and credit. Its offices are located in Atlantic City, Camden, Jersey City, Newark, Paterson, and Trenton. Further information about the Division is available on its Web site www.NJCivilRights.org.

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