Opening Acts: July 17, 2019

Apartments For Rent… For Whites Only?

FHJC TESTING YIELDS EVIDENCE OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST AFRICAN AMERICAN RENTERS AT BROOKLYN APARTMENT BUILDING

Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and five African American testers filed a lawsuit in federal district court (EDNY) alleging that ZP Realty Capital LLC; 1411 Apt. LLC; landlord and broker Zev Pollak; and building superintendent Eldina Balic are discriminating against African American prospective renters at a 48-unit rental building located in the predominantly white Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn. According to the ZP Realty Capital website, Zev Pollak has managed thousands of rental units in New York City over the past 30 years.    

An investigation conducted by the FHJC disclosed that African American and white testers sent to a rental building located at 1411 Avenue N in Brooklyn were treated very differently based on race. The testers posed as prospective renters with similar socio-economic characteristics so that the primary difference between them was race. According to 2010 Census information, the population in this Midwood neighborhood is less than 2% African American. Here are two examples of how testers were treated:

  • The building superintendent told a white male tester that two apartments were available and allowed the tester to view the available apartments. In sharp contrast, when the same Super was asked by an African American tester whether any apartments were available, she told him “not that I know of.” One day later, the Super told a different white tester that both apartments were available, allowed the tester to view the apartments and provided the tester with a rental application. When the white tester went to the main rental office, Zev Pollak encouraged the tester to apply and told him the neighborhood was “quiet and safe” and that the building was a “Jewish building” with “good” and “stable” tenants.  
  • On another test conducted in early 2019, Mr. Zev Pollak showed a white tester a vacant apartment and encouraged the tester to apply. Two days later, an African American tester visited the same building and was told by the Super that there was “nothing available” and that “everything full…100%.” When another white tester went to the same building the very next day to inquire about apartments, the Super told the white tester about an available apartment and directed him to the main rental office where Mr. Pollack confirmed that the apartment was still available and encouraged him to apply.

In addition to the lawsuit, the FHJC is filing an administrative complaint with the New York Department of State – Division of Licensing Services alleging that Zev Pollak, a licensed real estate broker, not only engaged in racial discrimination but has a policy of requiring applicants pay a broker’s fee to rent the rent-stabilized apartments that Mr. Pollak owns and manages.          

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “Racial discrimination in housing, while less visible than it was fifty years ago, is still quite pervasive and just as heinous and harmful as more overt discrimination. Residential racial segregation is not, and never has been, a matter of choice. It was created and is now perpetuated by intentional discriminatory housing practices like those documented in our complaint.” Freiberg added, “It is beyond vexing that a real estate broker, licensed by the State of New York, is directly involved in making housing unavailable to people based on race.”                   

The plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit 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.