New York, NY

Court narrows lawsuit alleging bias against hasidim

June 11, 2015
A lawsuit claiming that the Village of Bloomingburg discriminated against Hasidic Jews wanting to live there has survived a winnowing of allegations by a federal judge.
     Southern District Judge Katherine Forrest dismissed several claims, and several plaintiffs and defendants, from the case of Village of Bloomingburg Jewish Education Center v. Village of Bloomingburg, 14-cv-7250, including allegations that village officials discriminated against Hasidim who wanted to build a religious school there.
     But Forrest refused to dismiss claims that a discriminatory animus is blocking certificates of occupancy and building approvals at a major housing development in the 400-resident Catskills village.
     Forrest also declined to dismiss charges that religious discrimination was behind the denial of permission to build a mikvah, a bath used by Hasidic Jews for ritual immersion and purification, in the Town of Mamakating, in which the Village of Bloomingburg sits. The Mamakating Zoning Board of Appeals held that the mikvah did not qualify as a place of worship.
     

Discrimination lawsuit against New York village can proceed

June 09, 2015
A rural village and a surrounding town can face a $25 million lawsuit alleging Hasidic Jews were blocked from building housing and opening a bath for ritual immersion and purification, a judge ruled Tuesday.
     U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest said discrimination claims can proceed against the village of Bloomingburg and the Town of Mamakating, in Sullivan County, though she tossed out many claims and narrowed the number of defendants who can be sued.
     The judge allowed plaintiff Sullivan Farms II Inc. to proceed with claims that the village obstructed the completion of a housing development project known as Chestnut Ridge, and she permitted Malka Rosenbaum and Winterton Properties to pursue claims the town and its zoning board stymied the conversion of a Bloomingburg property formerly used as a day spa and a residence into a mikvah, a bath used by Hasidic Jews.
     

OPINION: Housing Apartheid, American Style

May 17, 2015
The riots that erupted in Baltimore last month were reminiscent of those that consumed cities all over the country during the 1960s. This rage and unrest was thoroughly explained five decades ago by President Lyndon Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Commission. The commission’s report was released in 1968 — the year that the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. touched off riots in 125 cities — and contains the most candid indictment of racism and segregation seen in such a document, before or since.
     The commission told white Americans what black citizens already knew: that the country was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal.” It linked the devastating riots that consumed Detroit and Newark in 1967 to residential segregation that had been sustained and made worse by federal policies that concentrated poor black citizens in ghettos. It also said that discrimination and segregation had become a threat to “the future of every American.”

Housing enforcement group sues M&T Bank for discrimination

February 09, 2015
One of the nation's largest banks discriminates against black, Latino and Asian homebuyers by offering lesser qualified white borrowers higher loan amounts and using hidden racial criteria in one of its loan programs, according to a lawsuit filed this week in federal court in Manhattan. The suit also accuses the bank of steering homebuyers to certain neighborhoods based on their race or ethnciity.
     The lawsuit claims that M&T Bank violated the landmark Fair Housing Act, a 1968 law that sought to end discriminatory lending practices and limit the historic segregation of many of the country's cities. The suit was filed by the Fair Housing Justice Center, a New York City-based non-profit organization that is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to enforce the federal law that bans housing discrimination.

Bill would boost domestic violence victims seeking NYCHA housing

December 15, 2014
A state pol announced legislation Monday to give domestic violence victims the same chance to get into NYCHA housing that homeless families have.
     The city launched a plan earlier this year to give 750 homeless families a fast track to NYCHA apartments - but it also let them jump ahead of domestic violence victims on the housing authority’s huge waiting list, as the Daily News revealed.
     The bill to be introduced by state Sen. Jeff Klein would give victims exiting domestic violence shelters equal priority with homeless families.

Fancy apartment building makes poor residents use separate entrance

July 30, 2014
It's amazing how government bureaucracy and over-regulation can seriously screw things up for the people forced to live under the laws designed to "protect" them. For example, one law in New York City having to do with affordable housing has led one developer to legally create what many are calling a "poor door."
     Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration is under fire for approving a building for mixed-use residence -- about 20 percent of the 33-story skyscraper will be low-income housing, while the rest will rent or sell for market value. The problem? The affordable units will be grouped together in one area, and will have its own separate entrance. Talk about separate but equal.
     Civil rights attorney Randolph McLaughlin called the building-within-a-building design "disgraceful," and called out the developers. "To permit developers or encourage them to create separate and unequal buildings and take tax credits and benefits from the city," he said, "I think that's a constitutional violation."

Co-op dogged by charges it won’t allow service pets

January 23, 2014
The federal government is suing a housing co-op on the Lower East Side on behalf of three residents who are not allowed to keep their emotional support dogs.
     The original lawsuit, which was filed against East River Housing Corp., in December 2013, claimed the housing cooperative, located at 573 Grand St., violated the Fair Housing Act, and discriminated against a tenant, Stephanie Aaron, by refusing to accommodate her psychiatric disability.
     Aaron has chronic depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, and found that the stray dog she took in helped to alleviate her mental health symptoms, the suit states.
     Under the Fair Housing Act, which is enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, housing providers cannot discriminate against a person based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status or disability.
     The co-op has a no-pet clause, and prohibits animals without prior written consent.

Justice Dept. threatens to seek contempt order for Westchester over fair housing dispute

August 24, 2012
After the U.S. attorney threatened to seek a contempt order against Westchester County, County Executive Rob Astorino said he will ask the legislature to reintroduce legislation that has been one of the most contentious elements of the county housing settlement.
     Astorino said he will ask the Board of Legislators by Aug. 31 to reintroduce legislation that would prohibit discrimination against tenants who use Section 8 or other government income for rent, and will help the board analyze the legislation as required in a May 3 court order. But it’s not clear if Astorino’s move will satisfy the U.S. Attorney’s Office or the judge because he said he will wait for the final legislation before determining whether he will sign it. The court order says Astorino must sign the legislation.
     The U.S. Attorney’s office had no comment.

NY judge cites 'breakdown' in process of complying with housing order in Westchester County

July 25, 2012
A judge ordered Westchester County on Wednesday to speed up its responses to federal requests to comply with a court order that settled a 2009 housing segregation lawsuit.
     U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan agreed with a request from the federal government to require the county to make any objections within five days so that the sides can meet and confer before forwarding any disputes to a magistrate judge for a speedy ruling.
     "The record is clear enough that there has been a failure, a breakdown in the process to date," Cote said at a hearing.
     Westchester County lawyer Robert Meehan said the county wants to comply with the settlement order and was surprised the federal government sought the judge's intervention. The federal government has accused the county of consistently failing to comply with information requests.

NYC landlord to pay $2M in suit accusing child-rapist super of sexual harassment

May 09, 2012
A New York City landlord who knowingly employed a child rapist as his building super will cough up a whopping $2 million to settle lawsuits claiming the man pressured female tenants to have sex in exchange for reduced rent.
     "I'm very happy," Carol Engle, one of six women who will split the settlement, said after signing the agreement with landlord Stanley Katz.
     For years, Katz stoutly defended his registered-sex-offender super, William Barnason, as a "prized employee."
     Engle said that when she once complained to Katz about her high rent, he told her, "You should have been nicer to Billy,' suggesting that if she had slept with him, he would have cut her a financial break.

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