Brooklyn Landlord Finds Itself In Crosshairs In Federal Fair Housing/Race Discrimination Suit Accusing It Of 'Failing Black/White Test' In Its Treatment Accorded Black Testers As Opposed To Their White Counterparts
In New York City, the Fair Housing Justice Center(1) recently announced:
- On August 2, 2013, the FHJC and four African American testers filed a lawsuit in federal district court (E.D.N.Y.) alleging that the owners and managers of apartment buildings located in Brooklyn discriminate against African Americans.
The case resulted from an investigation conducted by the FHJC in which African American and white testers posing as prospective renters were deployed to two rental buildings located at 592-596 E. 22nd Street in Brooklyn to inquire about apartments.
The investigation was commenced after the FHJC was contacted by the Flatbush Development Corporation. The lawsuit claims that the defendants, East 22nd Street Towers LLC, East 22 St. Realty LLC, Coney Management LLC, Kalman Zimmerman, Samuel Fleischman, Joseph Lichtman, and Mayer Fishman engaged in racially discriminatory practices in violation of fair housing laws.
The complaint alleges that the rent stabilized buildings on E. 22nd Street were neglected and in serious disrepair when they were occupied almost exclusively by Black tenants. When the defendants acquired the properties, units were eventually remodeled, but it appeared that Black tenants who remained in the building did not receive the same quality of renovations. Concern was expressed by tenant organizers that the owners were seeking to rent newly remodeled units to tenants who were not Black. In response to this concern, the FHJC conducted an investigation.
According to the lawsuit, African American testers were treated less favorably than their white counterparts on four tests. In stark contrast to the treatment accorded white testers, comparably qualified African American testers met with misinformation, discourtesies, and discouragement when inquiring about apartments for rent.
On one test, a white tester was told about four apartments that were coming available in several weeks and, on the same day, an African American tester was told no apartments were available and none would be available for a couple of months.
On the second test, an African American tester was informed that no apartment was available and that it could be “four to six weeks” and none would be available by October 1st. The same day, a white tester was shown an available apartment that was “just about ready” and that would be ready by October.
On another test, an African American tester was treated rudely and quoted a security deposit requirement that was twice as much as the amount quoted to his white counterpart.
(1) The Fair Housing Justice Center, Inc. (FHJC) is a regional fair housing organization based in New York City. The FHJC provides a full-service fair housing program to New York City and the seven surrounding New York counties of Dutchess, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester.