Landmark Settlement with NYC

New York, NY – The New York Center for Law and Justice (NYCLJ), a legal services organization dedicated to representing the deaf and hard of hearing communities, negotiated individually with the City of New York, as well as jointly with the United States Department of Justice, leading to a landmark settlement requiring the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to provide American Sign Language interpreters to deaf individuals living within the shelter system.

The settlement arises out of a lawsuit brought by the NYCLJ, along with its pro bono partner, the law firm of Kaye Scholer and litigation partner Jeff Horowitz, on behalf of a deaf client, and her hearing children, as a result of the failure of the New York City shelter system to provide American Sign Language interpreters in shelters.  During the course of the litigation, the NYCLJ and Kaye Scholer learned that the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York was engaged in parallel negotiations with the City involving the same issue. Working jointly with the staff of the United States Attorney’s Office, and at times individually, the NYCLJ and Kaye Scholer secured relief for deaf and hard of hearing shelter residents.

Highlights include The New York City Department of Homeless Services’ commitment to ensure that:

  1. Each shelter makes available a qualified interpreter upon request;
  2. The homeless shelter system provides the presence of visible alarm appliances for fire and smoke detection; and
  3. Training will be provided to all City employees involved with the DHS homeless shelter system.

Additionally, if DHS refers a shelter resident who is deaf or hard of hearing to the New York City Human Resources Administration, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development or the New York City Housing Authority for assistance, DHS will notify the respective agencies that the shelter resident must be provided with a qualified interpreter during the appointment. This can help deaf individuals in the City’s Shelter system when submitting a Section 8 housing voucher and for the purposes of obtaining subsidized permanent housing.

In addition to Liz Gitlin and Bruce J. Gitlin, of the NYCLJ, as mentioned, plaintiffs were represented by Kaye Scholer litigation partner Jeff Horowitz, who is Chair of the NYCLJ’s board and who supervised the matter at Kaye Scholer, and associate Kacy Wiggum, who led the team of associates representing the deaf client and her children that included, among others, David Harris, Will Madden, Ashley Holmes, and Stephanna Szotkowski.