Lifetime Achievement Award for Civil Rights: Charles J. Ogletree Jr.
Professor Ogletree began his legal career as a criminal defense lawyer with the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, where he was eventually appointed Deputy Director. In 1985, he began his teaching career at Harvard Law School and became tenured in 1993. Over the years, Professor Ogletree has litigated numerous landmark civil rights cases. Currently, Professor Ogletree serves as Special Counsel with the New York City civil rights law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP. Professor Ogletree is an accomplished author and editor of eight books and dozens of book chapters and articles, including his historical memoir, All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half-Century of Brown v. Board of Education. One of the original, featured moderators in PBS’s seminal series, Ethics in America, Professor Olgetree regularly appears as a guest commentator on nationally and internationally syndicated television programs. Professor Ogletree earned a B.A. and M.A. in Political Science from Stanford University and holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
FHJC is honored to acknowledge Charles J. Ogletree Jr. for a remarkable lifetime of achievement in civil rights and for his pursuit of a more just and inclusive nation.
Outstanding Leadership for Fair Housing Award: David J. Kennedy & Bernhard Blythe
About David Kennedy
As Chief of the Civil Rights Unit for the Office of the United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York (SDNY), David J. Kennedy has overseen the development and resolution of many significant housing discrimination cases since 2007. In May 2012, his office announced the settlement of a sexual harassment case brought against a Manhattan landlord that included the recovery of $2 million for victims of the harassment, a maximum $55,000 civil penalty, and extensive injunctive relief. In April 2012, the Department of Justice announced the filing of a federal lawsuit alleging that a large New York-based mortgage banking company charged African American and Hispanic borrowers higher rates on home mortgages than similarly qualified non-Hispanic white borrowers between 2005-2009. Several months later, the case was resolved with a $3.5 million dollar settlement that provides compensation to approximately 600 African American and Latino borrowers, a civil penalty, and extensive injunctive relief. Based on testing evidence provided by the FHJC, the SDNY Civil Rights Unit filed two cases alleging that the owners and managers of rental buildings located in Rockland County were discriminating against African American prospective renters. These cases were successfully resolved for damages, civil penalties, and extensive injunctive relief. In the area of disability discrimination, the Civil Rights Unit under Mr. Kennedy’s leadership filed four cases which alleged that building owners, builders, and architects had designed and constructed new multi-family rental buildings in non-compliance with the accessibility requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act. The FHJC referred the results of its 2006 testing investigation to the Civil Rights Unit, which ultimately led to these enforcement actions. All four cases have been resolved with remedies covering over 3000 rental units in New York City. The settlements include retrofits to make apartments accessible; a total monetary recovery of over $3 million for victim funds, an accessibility fund, and civil penalties; and extensive injunctive relief. It is with great pleasure that we recognize the outstanding leadership that David Kennedy has provided to all New Yorkers by ensuring vigorous and effective enforcement of federal fair housing and fair lending laws.
About Bernhard Blythe
As one of the founding FHJC Board Members and the Board of Directors’ second President (2009 – 2012), Bernhard Blythe provided outstanding leadership and guided the FHJC through its formative years. During times of fiscal austerity, Bernhard expanded the FHJC Board and kept the FHJC’s doors open. Bernhard’s commitment to fair housing is evidenced by his passion for fairness and his tireless efforts to ensure that the FHJC continued its work to defeat discrimination in housing and promote inclusive communities throughout the New York City region. We thank Bernhard for his unwavering dedication, inspired leadership, and tremendous service to the organization.
Exercise of Fair Housing Rights Award: Stephen & Melissa Fajardo, Vanessa Lee
About Stephen and Melissa Fajardo
In April 2011, Stephen and Melissa Fajardo were searching for an apartment in Brooklyn for themselves and their children. Mr. Fajardo called in response to an advertisement for a two-bedroom apartment and a real estate broker informed him that the landlord did not want to rent to children and that children make too much noise. The FHJC conducted a testing investigation and corroborated the Farjardos’ complaint. In that investigation, the same broker told an FHJC tester, inquiring about the identical apartment for his family with children, that the owner would not rent to him and stated, “He’s trying to avoid kids.” On May 23, 2011, the Fajardos, through their attorney, Eric Dinnocenzo, filed a lawsuit alleging family status discrimination. The Fajardos resolved their complaint with a monetary settlement that included payment of damages by both the real estate broker and owner of the rental property.
About Vanessa Lee
When Vanessa Lee, a federal government civil servant and a life-long Brooklyn resident, attempted to find an apartment to rent in 2007, she was asked over the telephone by a real estate agent if she was Jewish. Once Ms. Lee, an African American woman, said that she was not Jewish, she was told the advertised apartment was no longer available for rent. Ms. Lee contacted the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and HUD referred her to the FHJC for assistance. Over the next four months, the FHJC conducted a testing investigation by sending four matched pairs of African American and white testers to this Brooklyn real estate company. The African American testers were consistently told that they needed to make an appointment, no one was available to assist them, and someone would call them back. In short, they were refused service and never called back. In contrast, the white testers, who went without appointments, were immediately shown apartments and/or provided information about apartments available for rent. Still searching for an apartment, Ms. Lee went in person to the realty office and was told she could not be helped without completing a form and making an appointment. On the same day, a white tester went to the real estate office, without an appointment, and was shown apartments available to rent. In 2008, Ms. Lee, through Attorney O. Andrew Wilson of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, filed a federal race discrimination lawsuit against the company and its owner. The case was resolved in 2012 with a court-ordered settlement agreement that included $50,000 and extensive injunctive relief.
Special Guest & Master of Ceremonies
Special Guest: Harry Belafonte, Artist/Activist
Master of Ceremonies: Darius De Haas, Singer/Actor