Opening Acts Newsletter: October 15, 2013

Court Approves Settlement in Race Discrimination Case

$110,000 and Injunctive Relief Ordered to Halt Discriminatory Practices

On September 27, 2013, Federal Magistrate Joan M. Azrack approved a settlement resolving a rental discrimination case filed by the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and three African American testers earlier this year. The lawsuit alleged that the owners and managers of an apartment building in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn were discriminating against African American renters.

The case resulted from an undercover testing investigation conducted in 2012 by the FHJC in which several teams of comparably qualified African American and white testers, posing as prospective renters, inquired about apartments at a 59-unit rental building located at 7502 Ridge Blvd. in Brooklyn. The investigation disclosed that African American renters were provided very different information from their white counterparts about available apartments.

In the settlement, the defendants, Merz Realty Co., Hal Shapiro, and resident managers Ula Zatorski and Zdislaw Zatorski agree to comply with fair housing laws, adopt a policy statement of non-discrimination and distribute it to employees and agents, include the non-discrimination policy in rental applications, display equal housing opportunity posters, publicly advertise available apartments, maintain rental records and permit the FHJC to inspect records for a period of four (4) years. Agents with direct involvement in renting apartments will also receive training on fair housing laws. Finally, the defendants also agreed to pay a total of $110,000 to the plaintiffs in damages, costs, and attorneys’ fees. The plaintiffs were represented by Eric Hecker and Mariann Meier Wang with the law firm of Cuti Hecker Wang, LLP.