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Rehabilitation Support Services, Inc. v. City of Albany

United States District Court, N.D. New York

July 2, 2015

REHABILITATION SUPPORT SERVICES, INC., on its own behalf and on behalf of its residents, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ALBANY, NEW YORK, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

LAWRENCE E. KAHN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Rehabilitation Support Services, Inc. ("RSS" or "Plaintiff") filed this action against Defendant City of Albany (the "City" or "Defendant"), challenging the City's zoning ordinance under the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 ("FHAA"), 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq., and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq. See Dkt. No. 1 ("Complaint"). Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Dkt. Nos. 11 ("Motion"); 11-1 ("Memorandum"). For the following reasons, the Motion is denied.

II. BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff is a non-profit organization that operates residential programs for people with disabilities. Compl. ¶ 4. Currently, "[Plaintiff] is seeking to establish a residence for 24 people who are recovering from alcoholism and substance abuse at a site located at 292 Second Street, Albany, New York." Id . ¶¶ 6, 12. Alcoholism and substance abuse prevents these individuals from living with their families, and "significantly impacts... their ability to retain employment and perform other daily living activities." Id . ¶ 11. They must live in a residence of this type "because of their disability and in order to further their own recovery." Id . The proposed residence "will be licensed by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services ("OASAS")." Id . ¶ 14.

The City of Albany has a zoning ordinance, which regulates the types of buildings and building uses within the City. Id . ¶ 15; see also generally City of Albany Zoning Ordinance ("Zoning Ordinance").[2] Plaintiff's proposed residence is located in the R2A zone according to the City's Zoning Ordinance. Compl. ¶ 18. Under the Zoning Ordinance, "[o]nly single and two family residences and houses of worship are permitted in" an R2A zone, which is a residential zone. Id . ¶ 20. Certain multi-unit residences, such as dormitories, nursing homes, and bed and breakfasts, may obtain a special use permit to operate in an R2A district. See id. ¶¶ 20-21; see also Zoning Ordinance § 375-64(C). Other multi-unit dwellings, including Plaintiff's planned residence, must obtain a use variance in order to establish a residence in an R2A zone. See Compl. ¶ 21. The Zoning Ordinance requires residences for people with disabilities to seek a use variance in order to establish a residence in any district in the City. See id. ¶ 23. The procedures for obtaining a use variance differ from those required to obtain a special use permit. Compare Zoning Ordinance § 375-26, with id. § 375-27. For example, in order to obtain a use variance, an applicant is required to show "that applicable zoning regulations and restrictions have caused unnecessary hardship." Id . § 375-26(2)(a). Though individuals seeking a special use permit must also go through an application process, they need not show "unnecessary hardship" in order to obtain a permit. See generally id. § 375-27. "[O]n or about April 2, 2014, the Albany Board of Zoning Appeals [("BZA")] denied RSS' application for a [use] variance." Id . ¶ 22.

On April 30, 2014, Plaintiff filed the present action, alleging that the City's Zoning Ordinance constitutes a facial violation of both the FHA and the ADA. See generally Compl. Thereafter, Defendant filed the instant Motion. Mot. Plaintiff filed a response, Dkt. No. 15 ("Response"), and Defendant in turn filed a reply, Dkt. No. 19 ("Reply"). On May 1, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Petition in New York State Supreme Court, Albany County, pursuant to Article 78 of New York State's Civil Practice Law and Rules, challenging the BZA's denial of its use variance application. Dkt. No. 11-16, Ex. H ("Article 78 Petition").[3]

III. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

"A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] 12(b)(1) when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it." Makarova, 201 F.3d at 113 (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1)). "The standard for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is substantively identical' to the 12(b)(6) standard." Berkovitz v. Vill. of S. Blooming Grove, No. 09 CIV 0291, 2010 WL 3528884, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 3, 2010) (quoting Lerner v. Fleet Bank, N.A., 318 F.3d 113, 128 (2d Cir. 2003)). In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), a court must accept as true all material factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Buday v. N.Y. Yankees P'Ship, 486 F.Appx. 894, 896 (2d Cir. 2012). However, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that a court has subject matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. See Garanti Finansal Kiralama A.S. v. Aqua Marine & Trading, Inc., 697 F.3d 59, 65 (2d Cir. 2012). "[J]urisdiction must be shown affirmatively, and that showing is not made by drawing from the pleadings inferences favorable to the party asserting it." APWU v. Potter, 343 F.3d 619, 623 (2d Cir. 2003) (citing Shipping Fin. Servs. Corp v. Drakos, 140 F.3d 129, 131 (2d Cir.1998)) (alteration in original).

When a defendant "moves for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1), as well as on other grounds, the court should consider the Rule 12(b)(1) challenge first since if it must dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the accompanying defenses and objections become moot and do not need to be determined." U.S. ex rel. Kreindler & Kreindler v. United Tech. Corp., 985 F.2d 1148, 1155-56 (2d Cir. 1993) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

B. 12(b)(6)

To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). A court must accept as true the factual allegations contained in a complaint and draw all inferences in favor of a plaintiff. See Allaire Corp. v. Okumus, 433 F.3d 248, 249-50 (2d Cir. 2006). A complaint may be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) only where it appears that there are not "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Plausibility requires "enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [the alleged misconduct]." Id. at 556. The plausibility standard "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id . (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Where a court is unable to infer more than the mere possibility of the alleged misconduct based on the pleaded facts, the pleader has not demonstrated that she is entitled to relief and the action is subject to dismissal. See id. at 678-79.

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Plaintiff asserts that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 42 U.S.C. §§ 3613 and 12133. Compl. ¶ 2. Section 1331 provides that "district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiff brings the ...


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