Press Release: Wednesday, August 28, 2013

“Apartment for Rent” Sign Does Not Apply to African Americans

Mineola, NY – On Wednesday, August 28, 2013, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC), ERASE Racism, and three African American testers filed a lawsuit in federal district court (E.D.N.Y.) alleging that the owners and managers of an apartment building in the Village of Mineola discriminate against African American renters.

This case resulted from an undercover testing investigation conducted by the FHJC in 2012. Several teams of comparably qualified African American and white testers, posing as prospective renters, inquired about apartments at the 74-unit Town House Apartments located at 225 First Street in the Village of Mineola, a predominantly white community in Nassau County. The investigation was jointly funded and sponsored by the FHJC and ERASE Racism, a non-profit organization dedicated to exposing and eliminating racial disparities on Long Island.

According to the lawsuit, an “Apartment for Rent” sign appeared at the entrance to Town House Apartments, one of the largest rental buildings in Mineola. Despite the sign, the complaint alleges that the building superintendent discouraged African Americans from renting apartments by misrepresenting the availability of apartments, not showing available apartments, quoting higher rents, and/or suggesting there could be a wait because other people were ahead of them. The lawsuit names LLR Realty, LLC based in Port Washington, NY along with the building superintendent as defendants.

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief to stop the discrimination and ensure future compliance with fair housing laws as well as damages and attorneys’ fees. The plaintiffs are represented by Diane L. Houk and Samuel Shapiro with the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP.

FHJC Executive Director Kumiki Gibson commented, “This lawsuit is about more than just people being kept out of a suburban apartment building. It is about African Americans being shut out of a community with high-performing schools, good jobs, and many other amenities. It’s an injustice that serves as a painful reminder, on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, that much work must still be done to ensure equal treatment and fair housing.”

ERASE Racism president, Elaine Gross, commented that, “On August 28, 1963, a quarter million people gathered in Washington, DC for the historic March on Washington. Today, 50 years later, I am here in DC, standing where they stood as thousands of us gather to commemorate that day and renew our commitment to continue the work that was done across this country to bring justice and equity to a disenfranchised people, the descendants of slaves.”

“Fair housing”, Ms. Gross continued, “the ability to purchase or rent the home of your choice in the community of your choice, regardless of the color of your skin, has been a hallmark of the civil rights movement. Yet here we are, 50 years after the March on Washington and 45 years after the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act, with ERASE Racism fighting to make fair housing a reality on Long Island, the 10th most racially segregated metropolitan region in the country.”

About FHJC: The mission of the FHJC is to eliminate housing discrimination; promote open, accessible, and inclusive communities; and strengthen enforcement of fair housing laws. The FHJC assists individuals who encounter illegal housing discrimination by providing counseling on fair housing rights, investigative assistance, and referrals to administrative agencies and cooperating attorneys. Individuals who need assistance with housing discrimination complaints are encouraged to call the FHJC at (212) 400-8201.