FHJC Wins Motion Practice

Photo © by Bernard Kleina

March 13, 2024


On March 12, an opinion was publicly filed in which New York State Supreme Court Justice Peter P. Sweeney denied a motion to dismiss filed by two defendants in a source-of-income discrimination lawsuit brought by the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and individual co-plaintiff Naomi Henderson.  The moving defendants, 1402 Owners Corp. and David Spira, made numerous arguments in an effort to sidestep the case, but were instead directed to file their joint answer within ten days.

Originally filed in 2022, this lawsuit stems from an extensive investigation conducted by the FHJC. The investigation revealed that defendants treated potential applicants who stated they would be paying their rent with income solely from employment positively, giving them warm and informative responses, while completely ignoring applicants with vouchers. This corroborated the experience of Ms. Naomi Henderson, a 67-year-old New Yorker and notable lifelong activist, who was living in a homeless shelter at the time. She was struggling to find an apartment using her 100% CityFHEPS voucher and contacted the FHJC after experiencing discriminatory treatment by defendants.

Multiple defendants settled their claims in meaningful ways: an agreement with five of the nine defendants filed in December 2023 can be read HERE.

David Spira and 1402 Owners Corp. insisted on fighting, raising numerous arguments in a motion to dismiss. The Court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss in its entirety. Notably, Justice Sweeney found that the FHJC adequately alleged claims against these landlord defendants, affirming the vicarious liability of landlords for the discriminatory conduct of brokers. The Court further found that FHJC’s organizational standing to bring this lawsuit is “beyond peradventure.” The full decision can be read HERE.

“The law is on our side,” stated FHJC Legal Coordinator Madhulika Murali. “Fair housing laws exist to ensure that members of our community can be housed with equality and dignity. With this dismissal, we can now continue to ensure that defendants are brought to account.”

“We are pleased the Court issued this thoughtful decision rejecting David Spira and 1402’s baseless arguments, particularly given how broadly NYS and NYC laws empower voucher holders and fair housing organizations to fight against this type of discrimination,” stated attorney Heather Gregorio. Ms. Gregorio and attorney Mariann Wang with the law firm Cuti Hecker Wang LLP represent the FHJC in this lawsuit. Attorney Deborah H. Karpatkin represents Naomi Henderson.

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.