Opening Acts: March 12, 2015

Photo © by Bernard Kleina

March 12, 2015

Bronx Race Discrimination Case Settled

Landlord Agrees to Change Rental Practices and Pay $200,000

On March 11, 2015, U.S. Magistrate Debra Freeman signed an agreement resolving a housing discrimination lawsuit involving rental housing in the Woodlawn neighborhood of the Bronx. The complaint, filed in May 2014, by the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and three African American testers alleged that J.J.A. Holding Corporation engaged in racially discriminatory rental practices. The complaint resulted from an FHJC testing investigation conducted in 2013-14. The complaint alleged, among other things, that an agent for J.J.A. Holding was misrepresenting to African American testers that no apartments were available, while showing available apartments to white testers on the same day.

As part of the injunctive relief in this case, the defendants agreed to adopt, post, and distribute a fair housing policy, require employees and agents to participate in fair housing training, ensure that available rental units are publicly advertised, and require uniform standards and procedures for showing available apartments and dispensing information about them. Under one provision of the settlement, the defendants agreed to notify tenants living in defendant buildings located in other parts of the Bronx that they may, if they choose, add their names to a waiting list in order to receive priority consideration for any apartments that come available at the rent-stabilized Woodlawn rental buildings located at 360 East 234th Street, 4300 Martha Avenue, and 4313 Kepler Avenue. The FHJC hopes that this provision will afford tenants currently residing in defendant-owned buildings that are located in predominantly minority areas with the opportunity to move to any of the defendant’s buildings located in the predominantly white Woodlawn neighborhood.

The order provides that the defendants will maintain rental records and the FHJC will be able to monitor compliance with the agreement for a period of four years. Finally, the defendants agreed to pay the plaintiffs $200,000 for damages and attorney’s fees. The plaintiffs were represented by Diane L. Houk with the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP.

FHJC President Gene Capello commented, “This settlement represents a very favorable outcome for fair housing because it will help prevent future discrimination and open up housing opportunities and neighborhoods to populations previously excluded.” Capello added, “We also hope the results of this settlement, including the costs associated with resolving these housing discrimination complaints, will deter other housing providers from discriminating.”