Opening Acts Newsletter: June 28, 2013

Sunnyside Race Discrimination Case Settled

Agreement Extends Remedy to Other Rental Buildings in NYC

On June 27, 2013, Federal District Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf approved a settlement resolving a fair housing lawsuit filed by the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and three African American testers against the owners and managers of an apartment building located at 41-41 46th Street in Sunnyside, Queens. The lawsuit, filed in December 2012, alleged that Nasa Real Estate Corporation (“Nasa”) and its agents were discriminating based on race and color in the rental of housing in violation of fair housing laws. The complaint was based on the results of a systemic testing investigation conducted by the FHJC in which matched pairs of African American and white testers inquired about renting apartments at the 107-unit apartment building. According to the complaint, an agent informed African American testers that no apartments were available, while informing comparably qualified white testers about available apartments and showing them apartments.

The agreement provides a general injunction requiring that Nasa and its employees abide by fair housing laws. One of the defendants, Irfan Bekdemir, who was tested by the FHJC, acknowledged in the agreement that he told African American testers that no apartments were available and did not show them any apartments while informing white testers about available apartments and showing them vacant units.

The settlement states that Nasa will implement specific fair housing policies and practices to ensure future compliance with the law. The defendants will have its employees attend fair housing training; adopt a fair housing policy and include the policy on rental applications; place the phrase “Equal Housing Opportunity” in all advertisements and conspicuously display fair housing posters in offices and buildings; post a sign at the building informing prospective renters of the phone number for the management office; and publicly advertise available apartments in a newspaper of general circulation and/or a free website. In addition, Nasa will enter into an agreement with its management company binding it to apply these same fair housing policies and practices to additional rental properties located throughout New York City. Nasa will maintain certain rental records and make them available to the FHJC for a period of three years for the purpose of monitoring compliance with the agreement. Finally, the agreement provides that Nasa will pay a total of $130,000 to the plaintiffs for damages, attorney’s fees, and costs. The plaintiffs were represented by Elizabeth S. Saylor, Diane L. Houk, and Vasudha Talla with the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, LLP.

FHJC Executive Director Kumiki Gibson stated, “We are pleased with the agreement because it will ensure that all people are afforded equal access to apartments at the Sunnyside building and other rental buildings currently managed by the defendant’s management company.”