Opening Acts: September 20, 2018

Eastchester Landlord Accused of Racial Discrimination

FHJC Investigations Continue to Yield Evidence that Racial Discrimination Persists 50 Years After Passage of Fair Housing Act

Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and three African American testers filed a lawsuit in federal district court (SDNY) alleging that New Property Associates, LLC and Building Superintendent Dikson Dumitrescu are discriminating against African American prospective renters at a 53-unit rental building located in the Town of Eastchester in Westchester County.

In a three-month investigation conducted in early 2018, the FHJC sent African American and white testers to a rental building located at 9 New Street in the predominantly white suburban town of Eastchester. The testers posed as prospective renters with similar socio-economic characteristics so that the primary difference between them was race. During the undercover investigation, white testers were routinely told about and shown available apartments, offered rental applications, given the building superintendent’s phone number, and encouraged to return completed applications directly to the super. African American testers were told about and shown fewer available units, not given rental applications or the super’s phone number, and referred to a real estate broker to inquire further about apartment availabilities. Here are two examples from the investigation:

  • The super told an African American tester that vacant apartments were under contract and there was a waiting list. When asked for an application, the super claimed he did not have any and, instead, encouraged the African American tester to contact a broker who knew about rental buildings in Yonkers and Mt. Vernon, two cities that have substantially higher African American populations than Eastchester. In stark contrast, the super told the white tester that there was an apartment available immediately and never mentioned anything about pending contracts or waiting lists. The super gave the white tester an application and encouraged him to return with his wife. The super did not refer the white tester to a broker.
  • During another test, the super told an African American tester that he only had one available one-bedroom apartment for rent. He went on to tell the tester that a rental application could be obtained by calling a broker and it would take one or two weeks before a decision would be made on a completed rental application. The white tester was told about and shown three vacant one-bedroom apartments by the super, two were available immediately and one would be available later that month. Before the super took the white tester to see the three available apartments, he provided her with a rental application even though the tester had not requested one.

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “The racially discriminatory practices detailed in this complaint are, sadly, not that uncommon.  Fifty years after the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act, racial discrimination often occurs in more subtle ways that are difficult, if not impossible, for people to detect.” Freiberg added, “Subtle and deceitful tactics that treat people less favorably, make housing unavailable, and exclude people based on race are just as harmful and illegal as more overt discriminatory conduct.”

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 Diane L. Houk of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, LLP.

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