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Building Discriminates Against Older Tenants With Gym Ban, Complaint Says

By Emily Frost | August 20, 2014 7:24am
 A claim filed with the Human Rights Commission argues that tenants barred from using a new gym were discriminated against because of their older age. 
Rent-Regulated Tenants Barred from UWS Gym
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UPPER WEST SIDE — The building owners who barred rent-regulated tenants from accessing their building's new gym are discriminating against older tenants, according to City Council members and a complaint filed with the New York City Human Rights Commission.

Stonehenge Partners, which owns Stonehenge Village on West 97th Street, discriminated against its senior tenants when it opened its gym exclusively to market-rate residents, the rent-regulated tenants argued in legal papers.

The alleged discrimination stems from the fact that 66 percent of rent-regulated tenants in the building are older than 65, compared to just 5 percent of market-rate tenants, they said.

Stonehenge is "targeting 'young and trendy' professionals while systematically hiding and excluding 2/3 of their elderly tenants," tenants association president Jean Dorsey, 74, wrote in legal papers filed with the New York City Human Rights Commission.

The papers were supporting documents to an earlier brief filed by Dorsey with the NYCHRC in April.

Public Advocate Letitia James filed a separate brief with the commission on July 31 supporting Dorsey's complaint and pointing out that the owners "were fully aware that those tenants who are subject to stabilization are long-term tenants who [are] more likely to be elderly."

"The rising cost of housing means that older tenants cannot afford to escape rising housing costs, yet cannot secure affordable housing elsewhere," James wrote in the letter, which got supporting signatures from Councilman Mark Levine and Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, as well as 19 other council members from around the city.

In its response to Dorsey's April complaint, Stonehenge Partners denied any discrimination. The company said it had to offer the gym to market-rate tenants to entice them to rent in the building.

"While market tenants may be induced by the availability of building amenities such as an exercise room, there is simply no evidence that excluding rent-regulated tenants would play a role in their decision," Dorsey responded. 

Stonehenge Partners declined to comment on its policy or the latest update to Dorsey's complaint.

Representatives for the Human Rights Commission said the complaint is currently under investigation. If investigators find probable cause of discrimination they would schedule a hearing, officials said. If the complaint is denied, Dorsey would have an opportunity to appeal, they said.

In March, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal introduced a bill that, if passed, would fine property owners who barred any renters from use of building amenities.