Lawsuit Alleges Apartment Availability Not the Same for African American and White Renters

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ERASE Racism files federal lawsuit alleging discrimination by apartment owner, management company and superintendent against African American renters in Commack.

racial equity, fair housing
This fight is more than a fight for fair housing. It is a fight for opportunity – the opportunity to live in a community with high-performing schools, good jobs, and other amenities for us and for our children.

On Thursday, April 30, 2015, ERASE Racism, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC), and seven African American testers filed a lawsuit in federal district court (S.D.N.Y.) alleging that the owner, management company and superintendent of an apartment complex in the Town of Smithtown are discriminating against African American renters.

In 2014, an investigation was jointly funded and sponsored by ERASE Racism and FHJC, which included sending several teams of comparably qualified African American and white testers posing as prospective renters to inquire about apartments at the 107-unit Mayfair Garden Apartments located at 51 Mayfair Gardens in Commack in the Town of Smithtown, a predominantly white community in Suffolk County.

According to the lawsuit, prospective renters inquired about apartment availability at 51 Mayfair Gardens, one of the largest rental complexes in Commack. The complaint alleges that the complex superintendent discouraged African Americans from renting apartments by misrepresenting the availability of apartments, not showing available apartments, and/or misrepresenting the dates apartments were available to rent. The lawsuit names Empire Management America Corporation and Square Realty Group, LLC, both based in Manhattan, NY, along with the complex superintendent, as defendants. The suit alleges that the defendants’ conduct constitutes racial discrimination in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, which states that it is illegal to “discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, …because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin”. The suit also alleges racial discrimination in violation of the Suffolk County Human Rights Law.

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief to stop the discrimination and ensure future compliance with fair housing laws as well as seeking damages and attorney’s fees. The plaintiffs are represented by Diane L. Houk and Theodor O. Oxholm with the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, LLP.

ERASE Racism president, Elaine Gross, commented that, “Discrimination is not an idea of the past. As I stand here today, in 2015, we are still engaged in a fight to overcome discrimination and make fair housing a reality on Long Island, the 10th most racially segregated metropolitan region in the country.”

Ms. Gross continued, “This fight is more than a fight for fair housing. It is a fight for opportunity – the opportunity to live in a community with high-performing schools, good jobs, and other amenities for us and for our children.”

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg commented, “The facts in this case illustrate the subtle and multifarious nature of contemporary housing discrimination. When white testers inquired about apartments, they were provided assistance, encouragement, and accurate information. In contrast, African American testers were greeted with a mélange of misrepresentations to discourage and exclude them.”

The case caption is ERASE Racism, Inc., et al. v. Empire Mgmt. Am. Corp., et al. (15 CV 03376).

About ERASE Racism: ERASE Racism is a regional organization that leads public policy advocacy campaigns and related programmatic initiatives to promote racial equity in areas such as housing, public school education and healthcare. It engages in a variety of research, education and consulting activities to identify and address institutional and structural racism, primarily on Long Island.

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Elaine Gross
ERASE Racism
+1 516-921-4863 Ext: 14
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