Opening Acts Newsletter: May 2, 2013

Bronx Co-op Community Welcomes All Buyers

Discriminatory Reference Rule Abolished

May 1, 2013, District Court Judge Robert P. Patterson, Jr. approved a settlement between the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and the Edgewater Park Owners Cooperative, Inc. (EPOC). The agreement resolves a lawsuit filed in February 2010 in which the FHJC alleged that two housing cooperatives located in the Throggs Neck area of the Bronx and a real estate broker were discriminating against African American prospective home buyers. Prior to filing a lawsuit, the FHJC conducted a testing investigation in 2009. The complaint alleged that Edgewater Park, a community with 675 homes, and Silver Beach Gardens, a community with 350 homes, required that prospective buyers provide three (3) references from existing shareholders and that this reference rule discriminated against African American home buyers.

The settlement provides a general injunction requiring EPOC to abide by fair housing laws and permanently eliminate the 3 shareholder reference requirement. The agreement states that EPOC will provide fair housing training for EPOC employees and board members, prominently display fair housing posters in the EPOC office, adopt a non-discrimination policy, and notify all shareholders and area real estate brokers about the policy. In addition, EPOC will maintain certain records and make them available to the FHJC for a period of three years for the purpose of monitoring compliance with the agreement. EPOC also agrees to purchase a display ad in Bronx newspapers marketing Edgewater Park as a “welcoming community” that invites “all home buyers to consider purchasing a home” in the co-op community. Finally, the agreement provides that EPOC will make a payment of $385,000 to the FHJC to cover damages, attorney’s fees, and costs.

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “This settlement opens up housing opportunities to prospective buyers of all races. We urge all cooperative and condominium communities in the New York City region to fully comply with fair housing laws by removing policies or procedures that restrict access to housing based on race or other protected characteristics.”

The FHJC entered into a settlement with Silver Beach Gardens in May 2011 for injunctive relief, which included removal of the 3 shareholder reference requirement, along with a monetary recovery of $115,000. The defendant real estate broker, Amelia Lewis, also settled with the FHJC and agreed to pay damages to two African American testers and surrender her real estate license.