Opening Acts Newsletter: December 16, 2013

Westchester County Landlord to Pay $92,000 for Discriminating Against African American Renters

Case Filed by U.S. Attorney’s Office Based on FHJC Testing

On December 2, 2013, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed a lawsuit in federal district court on behalf of the United States alleging that the owner of a 21-unit apartment complex in suburban Westchester County engaged in racially discriminatory rental practices. The complaint alleged that the owner and manager of an apartment complex located at 123 South Broadway in Irvington, New York engaged in a pattern and practice of race discrimination by misrepresenting the availability of apartments, failing to show available apartments, failing to provide rental application information, and quoting higher rents and security deposits to African American testers. The complaint stated that similarly situated white testers were told about and shown apartments, provided rental application information, and quoted lower rents and security deposits. The testing investigation was conducted in 2012 by the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) for the Department of Justice.

The defendants, 61 Main Street Corporation and Rosario Macri, president of 61 Main Street Corporation and manager of 123 S. Broadway, entered into a consent decree with the United States to resolve the case. The order was signed by Judge Kenneth M. Karas on December 12, 2013. The consent decree includes an admission by the defendants that they provided differential treatment to African American and white testers who visited the apartments. The order includes an injunction to stop the discrimination and binds the defendants to adopt, post, and distribute a fair housing policy; participate in fair housing training; and adopt uniform standards and procedures for showing available apartments, dispensing information about available apartments, providing rental applications, and maintaining waiting lists. The order requires extensive record-keeping and reporting to the U.S. Attorney’s office on the defendants rental practices. The consent decree also requires the defendants to publish a notice to identify aggrieved persons who may have been harmed by the defendants discriminatory practices and to establish a $60,000 fund to compensate persons who may have been injured. Additionally, the defendants agreed to pay a $32,000 civil penalty to the United States.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “Nobody should be deprived of housing opportunities based on his or her race or color. This case should be a wake-up call to any landlord or building owner who discriminates. Racial discrimination in housing is not only antithetical to the principles of fairness and equality, it is against the law.” Gene Capello, FHJC Board President, added “Without testing, this racially discriminatory conduct would likely have gone undetected and unchallenged. The FHJC will continue to offer its testing capability to government enforcement agencies that are serious about enforcing fair housing laws and ensuring equal housing opportunity.”

Court Denies Motion to Dismiss in Disability & Source of Income Discrimination Case

Lawsuit Against the LeFrak Organization to Move Forward

On December 13, 2013, Federal District Judge Denise Cote denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and an indigent woman living with AIDS which alleges discrimination based on disability and source of income. The lawsuit, filed in April 2013, alleges that the LeFrak Organization, Inc., Estates NY Real Estate Services LLC d/b/a Kings & Queens Realty, and LeFrak City Leasing were discriminating based on disability and source of income in their rental practices against persons living with HIV/AIDS who have a rental subsidy from the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA). In her decision, Judge Cote reaffirmed FHJC’s standing to bring the case and found that the plaintiffs had adequately pled claims for disability and source of income discrimination under both the federal Fair Housing Act and the New York City Human Rights Law. The Court said that the claims of plaintiffs survive under theories of intentional discrimination as well as disparate impact (i.e. a neutral policy that has a disproportionate adverse impact on a group of people based on a protected characteristic, in this case, disability discrimination against persons living with AIDS who have a HASA rental subsidy). The plaintiffs are represented by Diane L. Houk with Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, LLP and Armen H. Merjian of Housing Works.

FHJC Work Featured in Human Rights Report

Reports Details Status of Human Rights in U.S.

In December 2013, the U.S. Human Rights Network (USHRN), an organization comprised of more than 300 human rights and social justice organizations, issued a report entitled “Advancing Human Rights: A Status Report on Human Rights in the United States.” The report includes a chapter on Housing which describes FHJC’s work to investigate housing discrimination though testing and more vigorously enforce fair housing laws. The USHRN report also references the FHJC’s recent policy report which disclosed how the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program has been restricting the housing choices of lower income minority families and reinforcing patterns of concentrated poverty and racial segregation in the New York region. The full USHRN report is available at:

http://www.ushrnetwork.org/sites/ushrnetwork.org/files/2013humanrightsstatusreportfinal.pdf.