Lawsuit Alleges Interracial Couple Discouraged from Buying a Home in Midwood
BROKER TOLD THEM THEY “WOULD NOT BE COMFORTABLE IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD”
Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced that Kaseim Tripp, an African American man, and his wife, Kimberly Rosario, an Afro-Puerto Rican woman, filed a lawsuit against Elite Connect Real Estate, Inc., real estate broker Adeline Aryeh, Ouriel Aryeh, and former Midwood homeowners Michael and Berthe Langsner. The lawsuit alleges that, in February 2018, the plaintiffs attended an open house for a home listed for sale in the predominantly white Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn. Licensed real estate broker Adeline Aryeh, who worked for Elite Connect Real Estate, Inc., greeted the couple by asking them if they were real estate brokers. The couple responded that they were not and that they were interested in the house that was being offered for sale. Ms. Aryeh told plaintiffs, in front of other white prospective buyers, that they “would not be comfortable” in the home because it was in a “Jewish neighborhood.”
Mr. Tripp and Ms. Rosario left the open house shocked and upset. That evening, Mr. Tripp attempted to contact Ms. Aryah by phone, but her husband, Ouriel Aryeh, who had been present at the open house, informed Mr. Tripp that his wife was not available. Mr. Tripp asked Mr. Aryeh why his wife thought they might not be interested in the house and Mr. Aryeh replied by asking Mr. Tripp if he had “relatives” who could “visit him” in Midwood. Mr. Tripp stated he had relatives in Brooklyn but not in Midwood. Mr. Aryeh then said he would call Mr. Tripp if they had another open house. Even though the house remained on the market for months, Mr. Tripp never received a call.
Mr. Tripp, a US army veteran and, at the time, an employee of the Department of Justice, and Ms. Rosario, a psychotherapist, contacted the FHJC for assistance. In January 2020, Ms. Rosario called Ms. Aryeh, who confirmed her previous statements and continued to encourage Ms. Rosario to look at homes outside of Midwood. During the call, Ms. Aryeh said that she thought the couple would be more comfortable interacting with neighbors if they considered homes outside of Midwood in neighborhoods near Brooklyn College or in Ditmas Park (Flatbush), Brooklyn. Ms. Aryeh also asked Ms. Rosario if she had children and wanted them to play with neighbors, and then admitted that was one of the of reasons she referred the couple away from Midwood.
Mr. Tripp and Ms. Rosario continued searching for housing, avoiding predominately white neighborhoods for fear of encountering discrimination again. They eventually bought a home in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. The complaint alleges that Mr. Tripp and Ms. Rosario were discriminated against based on race, national origin, and religion.
FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated: “In November 2019, Newsday released compelling evidence from its Long Island Divided investigation of pervasive racial steering in the real estate sales market of Long Island. The despicable actions of the licensed real estate broker in this case provides further evidence that Black and Brown people still face significant barriers when it comes to purchasing a home.” Freiberg added, “No one should have to endure this 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 Blake Denton, Zack N. Zaharoff, and Angela Dunay with the law firm of Latham & Watkins LLP. The suit was filed in federal District Court (E.D.N.Y) and alleges discriminatory conduct that violates the 1866 Civil Rights Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law.
FHJC’s assistance in this case was supported with funding from a Private Enforcement Initiative (PEI) grant received from the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 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.