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Opening Acts: July 25, 2016

Plaintiffs Win on Motion to Dismiss and Preliminary Injunction

State Court Rules City’s Source of Income Law Intended to Protect Tenants with All Forms of Housing Assistance

On July 7, 2016, New York County Supreme Court Judge Shlomo S. Hagler ruled in favor of plaintiffs Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and two women with rental assistance on a motion to dismiss filed by defendants Starrett City, Inc. and Grenadier Realty Corp.

On August 31, 2015, the FHJC and two women with rental subsidies filed a lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court alleging that Starrett City, Inc. and Grenadier Realty Corp. were discriminating against prospective renters based on source of income in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law. The two individual plaintiffs, Regina Alston and Sandra Vaughn-Cooke, alleged they were each denied an opportunity to rent apartments at Spring Creek Towers in Brooklyn because they were planning to pay their rent with a Living in Communities (LINC) rental subsidy. The LINC program was created by the City of New York to assist homeless individuals and families in moving from temporary shelters to permanent housing. In response to complaints from Ms. Alston and Ms. Vaughn-Cooke, the FHJC coordinated a testing investigation. Agents for defendants informed FHJC testers that LINC rental subsidies would not be accepted at Spring Creek Towers.

After Plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction to direct Starrett City, Inc. to process Plaintiffs’ rental applications free of any discrimination, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint claiming that the prohibition against source of income discrimination does not require it to accept LINC vouchers. The Court denied Defendant’s motion, rejecting the contention that the statute was only intended to prevent discrimination against Section 8 voucher program participants. Judge Hagler found that the City’s Human Rights Law prohibits landlords, including the defendant Spring Creek, from refusing to accept the City’s LINC vouchers. The Court found that the “language and a fair reading of the subject statute should be interpreted liberally to include all forms of housing assistance.” The Court further stated that this remedial statute should be read liberally and noted at least two other courts have deemed the statute applicable to other housing assistance programs. Accordingly, the Court also granted the preliminary injunction sought by the Plaintiff Vaughn-Cooke, who is still homeless, and directed Defendant to process Ms. Vaughn-Cooke’s rental application “notwithstanding the basis of her source of income.”

Spring Creek Towers, formerly known as Starrett City, is a 5800-unit residential development located at 1255 Pennsylvania Avenue in Brooklyn. Grenadier Realty Corp. is a full-service property management company with a portfolio of over 40 properties that contain 22,000 rental units.

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg commented, “This decision makes it clear that housing providers cannot pick and choose which housing subsidies they will or will not accept. Landlords must consider qualified applicants regardless of the nature of the housing subsidy. ”

The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys for The Legal Aid Society and the law firm of Mayer Brown.