A Neighborhood of “Nice White People”

Photo © by Bernard Kleina

June 12, 2024

FHJC COMPLAINT ALLEGES RACE DISCRIMINATION

The Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced today it has filed a complaint alleging race discrimination on the part of real estate brokers Juda Niayzov and Alevtina Ioffe, their brokerage Exclusive Properties Realty, Inc., and property owners Amina Ali, Nderim Demirovic, and 202 Marine LLC. The FHJC is joined in the complaint by co-plaintiffs Stanley Felix and Patricia Delone, along with two FHJC testers.

According to the complaint, Felix and Delone, a Black couple living in Staten Island, contacted Niayzov online in November 2023 to inquire about a listing for an available apartment. Niayzov invited them to view the apartment but was unable to attend the viewing. After viewing the apartment unescorted, the couple attempted to apply for the unit, and provided the requested documentation of their employment, income, and credit scores. Niayzov also reminded them to submit copies of their identification, which, according to the complaint, showed for the first time that they are Black.

The couple received no response to their offer for several weeks. The complaint alleges that when pressed, Niayzov eventually told them their offer had been rejected. The initial reason given was that they supposedly lived in Brooklyn, which was not true and should have made no difference. He then told them the real reason was that the owner had had negative experience renting to Black tenants in the past.

Delone reported their experience to the FHJC, which launched an undercover investigation in which matched pairs of Black and white testers contacted Niayzov and his partner and wife Ioffe inquiring about available apartments.

According to the complaint, the Black testers were consistently given worse treatment during their interactions. Niayzov was late for a viewing appointment, ignored texts and calls, required income, credit, employment, and identification documentation before he would send an application form, and did not mention an available apartment in a neighborhood specifically requested by a Black tester.

In contrast, the complaint alleges that white testers were met with enthusiasm, provided with additional listings, and offered rent discounts that were not mentioned to the Black testers. The white testers also received repeated follow-up messages and invitations to the brokerage office.

During recorded conversations with white testers, Niayzov also made explicitly racist comments, at one point stating that a preferred Staten Island neighborhood has “nice white people,” according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges violations of the Fair Housing Act, the 1866 Civil Rights Act, and New York State and New York City Human Rights laws. The full complaint can be read HERE.

FHJC Executive Director/General Counsel Elizabeth Grossman stated, “Uncovering contemporary housing discrimination is challenging because it’s usually subtle and hidden, and most victims have no idea it’s happening. Flagrant racist statements, like those alleged in this complaint, are shocking, hateful, and devastating to hear. And they are yet another example of why the New York metro area remains so highly segregated.”

“This case is a sobering reminder that overt race discrimination continues to persist, even in 2024,” stated attorney Eric Hecker. The plaintiffs are represented by Mr. Hecker and Mariann Meier Wang with the law firm Cuti Hecker Wang LLP.

The FHJC’s investigation in this case was supported with funding from New York State Homes and Community Renewal.

The mission of the FHJC, a nonprofit civil rights organization, is to eliminate housing discrimination; promote policies and programs that foster open, accessible, and inclusive communities; and strengthen enforcement of fair housing laws in the New York City region.