New York, NY

$175,000 settlement in NY housing bias case

April 18, 2012
n apartment complex in the New York City suburbs has settled a civil rights lawsuit that claimed it had discriminated against blacks.
     The U.S. attorney's office says Burgundy Gardens in Valley Cottage will pay $150,000 to compensate victims. It will also pay a $25,000 fine.
     The 2010 lawsuit alleged that blacks were not told about available apartments or were quoted higher rental prices than others.

HUD back to court on Westchester housing

April 04, 2012
The fight over whether Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino had the right under a federal fair housing settlement to veto legislation prohibiting discrimination based on the income renters use to pay their landlords is headed back to court.
     The Department of Housing and Urban Development is challenging a judge’s ruling from mid-March saying that Astorino was free to veto source-of-income legislation despite the county’s duty under the 2009 settlement to promote the legislation. The legislation would have required landlords to accept Section 8 vouchers and other types of income.
     “The Government continues to maintain that the county executive’s veto of legislation banning housing discrimination based on a person’s source of income represents a breach of the county’s obligation to promote that type of legislation,” HUD said in a statement.

Discrimination lawsuit holds subprime lenders accountable

January 16, 2012
As we continue to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, it is clear that every American family has been touched in some way by the recession -- a recession sparked in many ways by the irresponsibility and recklessness on Wall Street over the last decade.
     From Ponzi schemes to health care scams to mortgage fraud, too many Americans have experienced the pain of this crisis in one form or another. African-American and Latino families have been hit especially hard. Between 2005 and 2009, fully two-thirds of median household wealth in Hispanic families was wiped out.
     And from Queens, New York, to Oakland, California, strong, middle class African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods saw nearly two decades of gains reversed in a matter of months. Most outrageously, these communities so devastated by the crisis were also targets of many of the practices that helped cause it -- including discrimination, predatory lending and fraud.

Investigation finds no discrimination at Barnard

January 13, 2012
Barnard has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, following allegations that a professor discriminated against a Jewish student.
     Barnard professor Rachel McDermott had been accused of discriminating against an Orthodox Jewish student last year by discouraging her from taking a class with Columbia professor Joseph Massad, a critic of Israel who has been accused of anti-Semitism.
     The complaint against Barnard was filed by Kenneth Marcus, the director of the Initiative on Anti-Semitism at the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, who alleged that McDermott illegally “steered” the student away from the class because of her religion. But the OCR found that there was “insufficient evidence” to prove discrimination, according to a letter the office sent to Barnard President Debora Spar on Wednesday.

Housing issue is far from over

January 11, 2012
County Executive Rob Astorino can rightly claim progress, as he has this week, in meeting numerical goals of a 2009 agreement to build 750 units of affordable housing in overwhelmingly white suburban communities. Nonetheless, the county chief remains Westchester’s worst enemy when it comes to executing an overarching settlement obligation: making the government a force for fair housing throughout the county. His contrary posture — Astorino has engaged in a running, distortion-laden diatribe against the settlement since even before he entered office — has made Westchester seem petty and small-minded. The question remains how much longer the federal court will put up with such blatant obstinacy.
     Astorino on Monday took an early victory lap, asserting that the administration was almost a year ahead of schedule in meeting benchmarks for developing housing that Westchester promised under a landmark settlement reached before he took office in 2010. As noted in court-appointed monitor James Johnson’s own written assessment — dated Friday — financing is in place for 182 units, for which 108 building permits have been issued. By the end of 2011, settlement benchmarks required financing for 100 units and building permits for 50.

Judge rules city development plan would perpetuate segregation

January 04, 2012
A state Supreme Court judge has put the brakes on a New York City plan to develop public housing in a Brooklyn neighborhood, a proposal she said would "perpetuate" racial segregation.
     In a decision released Wednesday, Manhattan Justice Emily Jane Goodman issued a preliminary injunction halting the city's development proposal, ruling that claims the plan would primarily favor white and Hasidic residents over blacks and Hispanics were "likely" to succeed under the federal Fair Housing Act.
     "The three proposed developments will not only not foster integration of the neighborhood, but it will perpetuate segregation in the Broadway Triangle," Goodman wrote. "Further, defendants have not demonstrated that their policies and actions are furthered by legitimate interests, which cannot be satisfied by lesser, non-discriminatory alternatives."
     A coalition of community groups in Williamsburg - joined by the New York Civil Liberties Union - filed a lawsuit in 2009 challenging the proposal to construct public housing on city-owned land on what is known as the Broadway Triangle, along the border between the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Co-op board's no-pet rule killed my wife after dispute over therapy dog, widower says in lawsuit

December 30, 2011
Sandra Biegel relied on her therapy dog for physical and emotional support. On days when the Long Island woman was wracked with depression or her pulmonary hypertension made it too hard to breathe, the obedient miniature schnauzer would lie in her bed, providing comfort and a sense of calm.
     But just a month after the ailing 74-year-old was forced to give Mikey away or face eviction and fines by the co-op board at her Woodbury Gardens complex, Sandra Biegel died.
     “She was heartbroken,” Sandra’s husband, Jack, said, choking back tears. “This dog was everything to her, and the stress of having to give him away hastened her death.”
     Biegel, 78, who ran a beverage business in Queens, knows he can’t bring back his wife of 46 years, or Mikey, now 8, who lives nearby with a family friend.

Bank of America to pay $335 million in Countrywide settlement

December 22, 2011
The Justice Department on Wednesday announced the largest residential fair-lending settlement in history, saying that Bank of America had agreed to pay $335 million to settle allegations that its Countrywide Financial unit discriminated against black and Hispanic borrowers during the housing boom.
     A department investigation concluded that Countrywide had charged higher fees and rates to more than 200,000 minority borrowers than to white borrowers who posed the same credit risk. It also steered more than 10,000 minority borrowers into costly subprime mortgages when white borrowers with similar credit profiles received regular loans, it found.
     Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said the settlement showed that the Justice Department would "vigorously pursue those who would take advantage of certain Americans because of their race, national origin, gender or disability," adding: "Such conduct undercuts the notion of a level playing field for all consumers. It betrays the promise of equal opportunity that is enshrined in our Constitution and our legal framework."

HUD barks at Co-op policy keeping resident from having emotional-support dog in his apartment

September 01, 2011
The feds are charging Co-op City's management company with violating the Fair Housing Act for not allowing a resident to keep an emotional-support dog in his apartment.
     The charges brought by the Department of Housing and Urban Development slam RiverBay for denying the 48-year-old man a tiny Chihuahua-Whippet mix named Figgy Newton as treatment for depression.
     The sprawling Bronx complex has a "no pets" policy.
     

Questions on a bank merger

August 19, 2011
Representative Barney Frank, a Democrat of Massachusetts, got it exactly right this week when he asked the Federal Reserve to do more than just rubber-stamp the proposed purchase of the online bank, ING Direct, by the Capital One Financial Corporation.
     Since that merger would create the fifth-largest bank in the United States, the Federal Reserve should make sure that the new entity is good for the banking sector generally and in full compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act, which requires banks to lend, invest and provide services in poor communities.
     A number of civil rights, consumer protection and housing advocacy groups have raised troubling questions about Capital One’s lending policies as they affect creditworthy, low-income minority families. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is currently investigating a formal complaint filed by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, an advocacy group that focuses on community redevelopment issues.

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