FHJC ANNOUNCES NEW SOURCE-OF-INCOME LAWSUIT
Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced it has filed a new lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court alleging source of income discrimination at seven different Bronx residential buildings owned and managed by Chestnut Holdings of New York Inc. The buildings are located at 2015 Bruckner Boulevard, 2198 Cruger Avenue, 3204 Holland Avenue, 2676 Grand Concourse, 975 Sherman Avenue, 1 W. 182nd Street / 2201 Jerome Avenue, and 147 West 230th Street, and comprise more than 500 apartments.
Other defendants named in the lawsuit are the real estate companies Bruma Realty LLC and Premier One Realty LLC, the property-owning entities Sparrow 1 LLC, Holland 3204 LLC, 2676 GC LLC, 975 S LLC, 1 West LLC, and 147 W 230 LLC, and real estate agents Sadia Madera, Yaakov Vogel, and Elchanon Bartfield.
Upon receiving information that the defendants were violating State and City laws that protect against source of income discrimination, the FHJC conducted a series of tests to assess the defendants’ treatment of prospective tenants with housing vouchers.
Publicly, Chestnut Holdings portrays itself as caring about low-income tenants. Chestnut’s website emphasizes its “Commitment to the Community,” and boasts of its dedication to increasing affordable housing options. An FHJC tester who asked about using a CityFHEPS voucher was even told by a broker leasing a Chestnut Holdings apartment, “We work with all rental assistance… we are a fair housing opportunity real estate firm. Someone from our office rental team will contact you.”
But that tester was never contacted. In fact, numerous testers posing as prospective tenants who would be using subsidy programs to help pay their rent were either completely ignored, lied to about availability, or otherwise discouraged from applying, according to the complaint. By contrast, in test after test, testers posing as prospective tenants whose income was derived solely from employment received prompt, enthusiastic replies to their inquiries and were invited to schedule viewings.
“CityFHEPS and other subsidy programs are designed to help low-income renters find and maintain stable housing,” stated FHJC Legal Coordinator Madhulika Murali. “Any company that purports to offer support for low-income New Yorkers’ housing needs while ignoring and discouraging applicants with vouchers is merely posturing.”
“Source of income discrimination has been clearly prohibited by State and City law for years, yet, as these tests demonstrate, it remains widespread among New York City landlords and brokers.” said Attorney Mariann Meier Wang. The FHJC is represented by Ms. Wang and Daniel Mullkoff with the law firm Cuti Hecker Wang LLP.
The lawsuit alleges violations of the New York City and New York State Human Rights Laws and seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief to stop the source of income discrimination. The full complaint can be read HERE.
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.