Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Joined By Lawmakers, Announces Lawsuits Against Landlords For Race Discrimination After Undercover Investigation

New York, NY (July 6, 2010) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today filed lawsuits against the owners and managers of residential housing complexes in Brooklyn and Glenville, Schenectady County for refusing to rent or show apartments to black applicants. The Schenectady County owner and manager are also charged with refusing to rent to families with children.

The lawsuits were filed in federal district courts in Brooklyn and Albany against 1648-50 Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn and Shady Lane Apartments at 133 Saratoga Road in Glenville after an undercover investigation. The lawsuits allege violations of federal and state housing and civil rights laws and seek civil penalties and an injunction prohibiting the companies from engaging in discriminatory practices.

The Attorney General also reached an agreement with another Brooklyn landlord, 1750 Associates LLC and Eilat Management, for discriminating against black applicants in renting apartments in their buildings. The agreement requires the companies to comply with fair housing laws; ensure that rental agents participate in anti-discrimination training; implement new rental procedures; and pay $40,000 in damages.

“We all share the basic need for housing, and the law protects our equal access to it,” said Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. “Our investigation found that housing discrimination continues to this day and landlords who continue to ignore the law will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

As part of a state-wide investigation into equal access to housing, the Attorney General’s office conducted undercover tests in which white testers and black testers visited apartment complexes in New York and inquired about available apartments. The tests, which were recorded, reveal that black testers were discriminated against at the following apartment complexes:

  • 1648-50 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, owned by 1650 Realty Associates, LLC and managed by Golden Touch Management, Inc.
  • 1750 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, owned by 1750 Associates, LLC and managed by Eilat Management Corp.
  • Shady Lane Apartments at 133 Saratoga Road, Glenville, owned by Socha Management, Inc.

Our investigation showed, among other things, that certain landlords:

  • Told black testers there were no apartments available when apartments were available.
  • Told black testers that they had to make an appointment and fill out an application before viewing apartments but allowed white testers to view apartments immediately.
  • Discouraged black testers from applying for apartments by telling them, among other things, that there were pending applications for the apartments which would prevent their application from being considered, while not telling white testers who inquired on the same day of any pending applications.
In addition, in tests conducted at Shady Lane Apartments in Glenville, New York, the landlord’s agent told both white and black testers who said they had children that they do not want young kids in their buildings. The agent also asked some testers if they ever planned to have children.

The lawsuits allege that landlords violated the federal Fair Housing Act and New York State housing and civil rights laws, which makes it illegal to refuse to sell, rent, lease or otherwise deny or withhold housing because of race, familial status and other protected classes. The lawsuits seek to stop these landlords from engaging in discriminatory practices that deny black applicants or families with children the opportunity to rent apartments on the basis of their race, color or familial status, and to obtain a court order requiring these companies to implement policies and procedures to prevent such unlawful action in the future. The lawsuits also seek penalties, and compensatory damages.

The Attorney Generals office has also created a fair housing Web site at www.ag.ny.gov. The site:

  • Explains fair housing laws
  • Provides information about available resources
  • Allows New Yorkers to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office.

Senator Eric Adams said, “Across the state New Yorkers should always have a place to call home, regardless of their color, age, familial status, or any other characteristic that a dishonest landlord may use to deny them an apartment. I commend Attorney General Cuomo’s aggressive pursuit of violators of fair housing laws, especially his use of undercover testing.”

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries said, “It is shameful that some landlords continue to deny housing to African-American families simply on the basis of race. I commend Attorney General Cuomo for his efforts to root out discrimination in New York State and provide everyone in our community with equal protection under the law.”

Assemblyman Karim Camara said, “We must remain diligent in working to end discriminatory practices in housing or wherever they may occur, which is exactly what Attorney General Cuomo is doing here today. I look forward to a continued partnership with his office in working through these and other issues that impact my constituents and the people of this state.”

Adriene Holder, Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Practice of The Legal Aid Society in New York City, which includes a city-wide housing practice, said, “Decades after reconstruction and the passage of federal and state anti-discrimination laws, these cases and others around the country highlight the sad and disturbing fact that discrimination is alive and well. The Attorney General, by vigorously enforcing fair housing and civil rights laws, is helping to dismantle brick by brick the stinging effects of discrimination that are felt by all residents of this State. We applaud Attorney General Cuomo for his commitment to defending the civil rights of all New Yorkers, regardless of their race.”

These settlements and lawsuits are a part of Attorney General Cuomo’s ongoing efforts to enforce laws that promote equal access to housing across New York State, including:

  • In April 2010, the Attorney General reached agreements with six large developers of rental apartment complexes in New York State to ensure equal access to housing for people with disabilities. Under the agreements, the developers - Port Jefferson Town Properties, LLC; Fairfield Pinewoods, LLC; Hudson Park Investors, LLC and Collins Yonkers II, LLC; Regency Club at Wallkill, LLC; Riverbend at Wappingers Falls, LLC; and Main Street Lofts, LLC - must offer to make retrofits to apartments and retrofit common areas and to ensure that people with disabilities have the full use and enjoyment of the facilities. The developers must also collectively pay $145,000 to compensate individuals who were harmed by the inaccessible housing. They will also work with an independent expert to certify that future construction of apartment complexes is in compliance with New York State and federal accessibility laws.
  • In March 2010, the Attorney General filed lawsuits against two loan modification companies, National Modification Service and Infinity Funding Group, for engaging in nationwide foreclosure rescue scams. The companies and their owners prey on homeowners facing foreclosure by claiming that they can save their homes, but often fail to provide the services promised. National Modification is based in Farmingdale, New York and Infinity is based in Bohemia, New York. The Attorney General recently obtained a default judgment on June 1 for $8.8 million against Infinity. The case against National Modification is pending before the New York State Supreme Court. The Attorney General also previously obtained a favorable ruling against Amerimod, one of the largest loan modification companies operating in New York and nationally, reached settlements with mortgage rescue companies ABM Mitigation Corporation, Raymond Louis & Fitch and Global Modification Services, and issued cease and desist letters to 213 loan modification companies alleged to be doing business in New York.
  • In February 2010, the Attorney General reached an agreement with Vantage Properties for $1 million to address allegations of tenant harassment in residential housing facilities in Queens, Harlem and Upper Manhattan. The agreement requires Vantage to compensate tenants who have suffered harassment and to fund not-for-profit organizations that provide free legal and educational services to tenants. Vantage is also required to implement new policies related to processing complaints, initiating legal proceedings, collecting rent, and establishing succession rights.
  • In January 2009, the Attorney General reached agreements with mortgage brokerage companies who were discriminating against African-American and Latino borrowers. The agreements required the companies - HCI Mortgage and Consumer One Mortgage - to pay $665,000 in restitution to approximately 455 Black and Latino borrowers who were illegally charged higher fees than similarly-situated White borrowers. The Attorney General also sued another brokerage company - U.S. Capital Funding, LLC - that engaged in similar discriminatory practices and the case was resolved through a settlement.

There are several state and federal laws governing fair access to housing that make it illegal to deny housing based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Familial Status
  • National Origin
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Marital Status
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Military Status

Consumers who believe they are being discriminated against by landlords or providers of housing-related services are urged to contact the Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-771-7755 or visit the Attorney General’s Web site www.ag.ny.gov.

The cases against Socha Management, Golden Touch Management, and 1750 Associates are being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Sunita Kini-Tandon, Brooke P. Davis, and Kayla Gassmann, under the supervision of Alphonso B. David, Special Deputy Attorney General for Civil Rights, and Spencer Freedman, Chief Counsel for Civil Rights.

 

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