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Hines v. 1025 Fifth Avenue Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

June 30, 2015

GEORGE HINES, M.D., HELENE HINES, and JENNIFER HINES, Plaintiffs,
v.
1025 FIFTH AVENUE INC., Defendant.

Counsel for Plaintiffs James E. Bahamonde, Esq. The Law Offices of James E. Bahamonde, P.C. North Bellmore, NY

Counsel for Defendant: Steven Barshov, Esq. Sive, Paget & Reisel, P.C. New York, NY

OPINION AND ORDER

SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

In May 2014, George, Helene, and Jennifer Hines (the "Hineses") brought this action against 1025 Fifth Avenue Inc. (the "Co-op") asserting discrimination claims under the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), the New York State Human Rights Law, the New York City Human Rights Law!("NYCHRL"), and the New York City Administrative Code (the "Discrimination Lt;lws"). They sought both injunctive relief and damages, and demanded a trial by jury. In February 2015, I granted the Co-op's motion to strike the Hineses' jufy demand (the "Motion to Strike"). On April 17, 2015, the parties entered into a stipulation of settlement (the "Settlement"). Plaintiffs now move for attorney's fees and costs under the FHA and NYCHRL. Specifically, plaintiffs seekifees of $288, 541.35 and costs in the amount of $6, 702.69 for the work of their attorney, James E. Bahamonde, a North Bellmore, solo-practitioner. For the following reasons, plaintiffs are awarded fees of $118, 037.50 and costs of $6, 702.69.

II. BACKGROUND[1]

A. The Underlying Litigation

In 2001, Helene and George Hines purchased and moved into a onebedroom co-op apartment owned by 1025 Fifth Avenue, Inc. (the "Co-op").[2] George and Helene identified themselves as co-applicants and both were interviewed by the Co-op's Board of Directors.[3] As part of their application, they listed the names and ages of their children, Brian Hines and Jennifer Hines.[4] Additionally, both George and Helene signed an acknowledgment that they had read the House Rules of the Co-op and that they understood the pet policy.[5] After the Board's approval, Helene and the Co-op executed a Proprietary Lease (the "Lease"), dated August 14, 2001 and extending through September 30, 2050.[6]

The Lease identifies Helene Hines as the Lessee.[7] Among other things, it includes a covenant related to the use of the premises, and provides: "The Lessee shall not occupy or use the apartment, or permit the same or any part thereof to be occupied or used, for any purpose other than as a private dwelling apartment for the Lessee[] [and] the family and servants of the Lessee...."[8] The Lease does not permit subletting without the Co-op's written consent.[9] The Lease also provides a procedure for the assignment of the Lease, which includes a requirement of written consent from either the Board of Directors or lessees owning a majority of the capital stock in the Co-op.[10] The Lease specifies that "the covenants herein contained shall apply to, bind and enure to the benefit of the Lessor and its successors and assigns, and the Lessee and the executors and administrators, legal representatives, legatees and assigns of the Lessee, except as hereinbefore stated."[11] Finally, the Lease provides for a waiver of trial by jury:

It is mutually agreed by and between the Lessor and the Lessee that the respective parties hereto shall and they hereby do waive trial by jury in any action, proceeding or counterclaims brought by either of the parties hereto against the other on any matters whatsoever arising out of or in any way connected with this lease, the Lessee's use or occupancy of the apartment, or any claim of damage resulting from any act or omission of the parties in any way connected with this lease or the apartment.[12]

The jury waiver appears on the last page of the Lease, which is also the signature page containing the signatures of the Co-op's representatives, Helene Hines, and Kathy Reitman, the Hines's attorney, as a witness.[13]

In or around 2010, Jennifer Hines moved into the apartment with her parents due to health concerns.[14] George and Helene renovated the apartment to create a second bedroom for Jennifer.[15] Both Helene and Jennifer keep service dogs, and Jennifer keeps an emotional support dog as well.[16] These dogs assist Helene and Jennifer with the management of their diseases. Starting in or around 2013, the presence of the dogs, as well as the placement of Helene's car, became a source of conflict between the Hineses and the Co-op.[17]

On May 21, 2014, the Hineses commenced this action against the Coop, alleging that the Co-op discriminated against the Hineses on the basis of their disabilities, and refused to make reasonable accommodations. The Hineses sought the following relief:

1. A declaratory judgment that defendant's conduct violated the Discrimination Laws;
2. An injunction preventing defendant from discriminating on the basis of disability against any persons in violation of the Discrimination Laws, including by (a) making notices or statements, with respect to the lease of a dwelling that indicate a preference, limitation, or discrimination based on disability, (b) denying a dwelling because of disability, (c) providing inferior terms, conditions, or privileges because of disability, (d) aiding, abetting, coercing, intimidating and discriminating based on disability, (e) refusing to make reasonable accommodations, (f) restricting assistance animals from using the passenger elevator, and (g) conditioning a reasonable accommodation upon a disabled person agreeing to be provided inferior services, privileges, and use of the facilities;
3. An injunction further requiring defendant to (a) modify its Pet Permission Form so that it does not have a disparate impact, (b) make all necessary modifications to its policies, practices, and procedures to comply with the Discrimination Laws, (c) train all management, agents, and employees on fair ...

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