Opening Acts Newsletter: March 19, 2012

African Americans Need Not Apply? 

FHJC Challenges Discriminatory Practices at Two Brooklyn Rental Buildings

On March 19, 2012, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and four African American testers filed a federal lawsuit against the owners and manager of two rental buildings located in the predominantly white Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bay Ridge and Gravesend. According to the 2010 Census, both rental buildings are located in areas where less than 2% of renter-occupied housing units are occupied by African Americans. In contrast, African American renter households comprise 37% of all renter households in Brooklyn and 27% of all renter households in New York City.

In the complaint, the FHJC alleges that, in 2010 and 2011, five “tests” were conducted in which comparably qualified African American and white testers inquired about renting at the 58-unit Dorset Apartments located on 99th Street in Bay Ridge and a 116-unit apartment building on E. 4th Street in Gravesend. According to the complaint, white testers were told shown and/or told about available apartments and provided truthful information about the rents, while their African American counterparts were falsely told no apartments were available and/or quoted higher rents.

The lawsuit alleges that building owners, Revlyn Apartments LLC and Shorefront Apartments LLC, and their agent, Dzhevdet Khalil, violated fair housing laws by discriminating based on race. The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief to ensure compliance with fair housing laws. The plaintiffs are represented by Diane L. Houk and Julia Einbond with the law firm of Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady, LLP.

FHJC President Bernhard A. Blythe stated “As we alleged in our complaint, the furtive unequal treatment became apparent when we viewed the rental practices at these buildings through the comparative lens of testing. The lawsuit filed today is aimed at ending the discrimination and repairing the harm that these discriminatory practices inflicted on the entire community.”

Attorney Diane L. Houk commented, “As our nation prepares to celebrate the 44th anniversary of the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act next month, we are reminded that work remains to be done to fulfill the law’s promise of equal opportunity.”

New Fair Housing Guide Available

The FHJC has released a valuable new resource for professionals working in non-profit and government housing programs in New York. FHJC’s Fair Housing Guide provides vital information on local, state, and federal fair housing laws. The Guide reviews who is protected and what conduct is prohibited by fair housing laws. It also details some precautions and practical steps that all renters and home buyers can take while searching for a place to live. The Guide is essential reading for housing professionals who want and need reliable information to assist New Yorkers to make informed housing choices and exercise their fair housing rights. Copies of FHJC’s Fair Housing Guide are available by contacting the FHJC at (212) 400-8201.