Opening Acts: October 16, 2017

Parkoff Organization Accused of Violating Fair Housing Laws… Again

FHJC Investigation Finds Discriminatory Practices Based on Race, Family Status, and Source of Income

Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and three African American testers filed a lawsuit in federal district court (EDNY) alleging The Parkoff Organization; A. Richard Parkoff; Adam Parkoff; 2828 Kings Assets LLC; 401 Realty LLC; and two Parkoff employees violated local, state, and federal fair housing laws. The Parkoff Organization is believed to own more than 75 buildings and control more than 4,500 rental units throughout New York City. The lawsuit alleges discrimination based on race, family status, and source of income.

In 1991, the former New York Open Housing Center filed a class action lawsuit against Parkoff on behalf of African Americans and Hispanics who were denied an opportunity to rent or view available apartments even though white testers were told about and shown available apartments and encouraged to apply. This case was resolved in 1992 for injunctive relief and damages.

Twenty-five years later, an FHJC testing investigation at Parkoff properties revealed that unlawful discrimination is still occurring.

Racial Discrimination

At a Parkoff Building located at 2828 Kings Highway in Brooklyn, African American and white testers visited the building and inquired about renting apartments. Each time, African American testers were lied to about available apartments, while white testers were told about and shown available apartments, encouraged to apply, and often connected to tenants who were planning to leave the building. African American testers were also quoted higher rents, as much as $200 more per month, than white testers.

Source of Income Discrimination

At a Parkoff building located at 401 Schenectady in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, a tester posing as a renter with a rental subsidy, after being told about available apartments, was informed that she could not apply because she had a federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher.  The agent told the tester that even though the company had other buildings that accepted the rental subsidy, no “approved” apartments were currently available.

Family Status Discrimination

FHJC testers who visited the Kings Highway and Schenectady buildings received a one-page “Rider to Lease Application” which imposed a requirement that if an applicant at a Parkoff building is a family with a child under the age of seven, the family must have the child tested for lead paint at their expense. The prospective tenant is required to share the results of the medical test with Parkoff.  Parkoff reserves the right to deny tenancy to any applicant who fails to comply with this requirement.

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “For the past twelve years, the FHJC has been working to ensure that all New Yorkers can access housing on a fair and equal basis. But now, in 2017, we find a major property owner blatantly denying housing to African Americans, restricting the housing choices that are available to people with rental subsidies, and enforcing more stringent requirements for tenancy on families with young children. The shameful conduct alleged in our complaint is as illegal as it is repugnant and it must be stopped.”

The plaintiffs are seeking damages and injunctive relief that would bring the defendants into compliance with fair housing laws and ensure non-discrimination in the future. The plaintiffs are represented by Mariann Wang and Heather Gregorio of Cuti Hecker Wang LLP.

The mission of the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC), a nonprofit civil rights organization, is to eliminate housing discrimination; promote policies that foster open, accessible, and inclusive communities; and strengthen enforcement of fair housing laws in the New York City region.