New York, NY

United Spinal Association to host disability leadership and policy summit

April 05, 2010
United Spinal Association will host its inaugural Disability Leadership and Policy Summit on April 15th in Philadelphia, commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was signed into law on July 26, 1990 and prohibits discrimination based on disability. The law was amended in 2008 to offer more protection to disabled workers.
     During the summit, United Spinal will honor Senator Arlen Specter, Dick and Ginny Thornburgh, and Liberty Resources, Inc. with this year's 2010 Visionary Award, for their leadership, extraordinary service, and outstanding commitment to advancing the lives of people with disabilities.
     Mr. Thornburgh served as Governor of Pennsylvania and Attorney General of the United States. He was a staunch supporter of the ADA and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. Mrs. Thornburgh has spent the past 40 years as an advocate for people with disabilities and works with the American Association of People with Disabilities to improve program and architectural access in religious congregations and seminaries. With five terms in office, Specter is the longest-serving U.S. Senator in Pennsylvania's history and has been a fierce advocate for Veterans benefits and an early ADA supporter and proponent. Liberty Resources, Inc. is the largest Independent Living Center in Pennsylvania that advocates on behalf of individuals with disabilities.

Wells Fargo, Baltimore in talks after mortgage suit

March 12, 2010
Wells Fargo & Co said on Friday it is in talks with Baltimore officials that could avert further litigation by that city over the bank's mortgage lending practices.
     Baltimore sued the fourth-largest U.S. bank in January 2008, accusing it of steering minority borrowers to expensive home loans, resulting in economic harm to the city.
     U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz in January dismissed that complaint, but he gave the city permission to file a narrower lawsuit focused on houses or neighborhoods where damages might be more directly traceable to Wells Fargo's practices.
     In a court filing on Thursday, Wells Fargo asked Motz to extend the city's deadline to file an amended complaint by four weeks to April 9 from March 12.

Garnerville apartment owners settle housing discrimination case

February 23, 2010
The owners of a Garnerville apartment complex and the federal government have settled a lawsuit involving fair-housing rights.
     People with disabilities who want to live at Tor View Village Apartments now will be able to count housing subsidies as income in their rental applications under the settlement.
     Berk-Cohen Associates at Tor View Village Apartments had been accused of refusing to honor an agreement with a local social services provider that allowed 20 of its 373 garden apartments to be rented to people with mental illness and disabilities.

Westchester failing to comply with historic housing desegregation order

February 10, 2010
An Anti-Discrimination Center ("ADC") report issued today, exactly six months after Westchester entered into a historic federal court Settlement Order to resolve a lawsuit brought by ADC, finds that Westchester is brazenly refusing to comply with critical elements of those obligations. The Settlement Order was entered on August 10, 2009, following court rulings that had found that Westchester had "utterly failed" to meet its "affirmatively furthering fair housing" ("AFFH") obligations throughout a six-year period, and that every single certification that Westchester had made during that period to the federal government asserting that the County had or would meet those obligations was "false or fraudulent."
     Under the Settlement Order, a crucial early step required of Westchester was the submission of an "Implementation Plan" for the achievement of the Settlement Order's desegregation goals. The Implementation Plan was supposed to be detailed and specific in setting forth the actions and activities necessary to ensure Settlement Order success. ADC has found that the documents recently submitted to the Monitor overseeing compliance "constitute neither planning nor implementation. The documents ignore or contradict several fundamental principles and requirements of the Settlement Order, and are clearly designed to maintain the status quo to the maximum extent possible."
     Among the key findings of the report:

Two Bronx communities are accused of preventing blacks from buying homes

February 04, 2010
The people of Edgewater Park have described their home as a Shangri-La, a tightly knit and idyllic community sitting on Long Island Sound in a hidden pocket of the Bronx.
     But according to a new lawsuit, not everyone is welcome in this version of paradise.
     On Thursday, the Fair Housing Justice Center, a nonprofit group, sued Edgewater Park, its nearby sister community, Silver Beach Gardens, and one of its former longtime residents, the Realtor Amelia Lewis, claiming racial discrimination.
     The suit, filed in United States District Court in Manhattan, sprang from an investigation the housing group conducted in September and October 2009, in which a white couple and an African-American couple inquired about buying homes in the communities. Both were “test” couples who worked for the housing group and said they were looking for homes priced below $300,000.
     

Westchester County releases implementation plan for housing settlement

February 02, 2010
Westchester County has submitted its implementation plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and to the federal monitor overseeing the county’s compliance with last year’s settlement of the fair and affordable housing lawsuit.
     The plan details the framework for complying with the settlement entered into by former County Executive Andrew Spano and approved by a majority of the Board of Legislators. The settlement requires the county to build 750 units of new housing in 31 communities and to undertake marketing that ensures outreach to racially and ethnically diverse households.
     The implementation plan does not specifically detail where the housing will be built – just the process on how decisions will be made. As required by the settlement, the plan also includes tools – such as new policies and marketing initiatives – to assist the county in promoting fair and affordable housing opportunities within Westchester.
     The document and its many attachments can be found on the county’s Web site at: www.westchestergov.com/housingsettlement .

Wells Fargo mortgage case in Baltimore dismissed

January 07, 2010
Baltimore's defeat in a lawsuit accusing Wells Fargo & Co of steering minority borrowers to expensive home loans may not derail efforts by local governments to hold the biggest mortgage providers responsible for lending they contend hurts cities.
     Nonetheless, the dismissal of Baltimore's two-year-old federal lawsuit is another setback to legal efforts by state and local governments to combat the economic and social costs of mounting foreclosures and falling housing prices.
     Baltimore was the first major American city to accuse a mortgage lender of violating the federal Fair Housing Act with predatory lending practices that exacerbated the nation's housing slump.
     On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz dismissed its case. Last August, a federal judge dismissed a similar lawsuit brought by Birmingham, Alabama against Bank of America Corp and Citigroup Inc.
     "It is difficult for cities to show a causal link between one lender's actions and overall economic blight," said Linda Fisher, a law professor at Seton Hall University in Newark, New Jersey who has written about reverse redlining and the correlation between race and subprime lending. "Cities may need to tailor their lawsuits more narrowly."

HUD Combats Discrimination

November 06, 2009
IN recent years, state and local governments have enacted laws to combat discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people seeking mortgages and housing. Now the federal government is poised to do the same with regulations that would cover loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration.
     The new initiative was welcomed by legal advocates, who say that so far, laws have largely failed to address the issue adequately. Some in the mortgage industry, meanwhile, contend that such discrimination is rare.
     In an announcement last month, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said that his staff would soon propose a rule that would specify, among other things, that any F.H.A.-insured mortgage must be based on the creditworthiness of a borrower and not on unrelated factors like sexual orientation.
     

Developer Fined $10,000 In Mezuzah Flap

November 03, 2009
A Dix Hills, L.I., developer was fined $10,000 by New York state Monday for ordering a woman to remove the mezuzah on the front door of her home.
     Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said the Stone Ridge Estates homeowners association, which oversees the 76-unit complex, has agreed to draft and institute new policies that permit residents to display religious objects on their property.
     Werner was fined $50 last April after refusing the association’s order to remove the mezuzah or conceal it behind a screen door that would cost $300 to $500.
     The fine was later rescinded. “We’re very pleased with the outcome,” Werner said. “The whole development was behind me. It’s a moral victory.”
     

Cuomo Resolves Religious Discrimination Complaint Against Homeowners Association In Suffolk County

November 02, 2009
Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that Stone Ridge Estates at Dix Hills Home Owners Association, which oversees seventy-six condominium units located in Dix Hills, New York, has entered into an agreement with his office to guarantee that its bylaws do not discriminate against residents because of their religion. Under the terms of the agreement, the Association must draft and institute new policies that permit residents to display religious objects on their properties, without the Association’s prior permission.
     The Association is also required to pay $10,000 to resolve the investigation. “This country guarantees every individual the right to express his or her religious beliefs,” said Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. “And New York State, with our fair housing laws, guarantees that no resident will be discriminated against based on that expression. The practices employed by the Dix Hills Homeowners Association went against the fundamental protections and promises of our laws. By reforming their bylaws and practices, they will ensure that no resident will be the victim of this kind of discrimination.”
     The settlement follows an investigation by the Attorney General’s office into the bylaws and practices of Stone Ridge Association after receiving and reviewing a complaint that the Association discriminated against Jewish residents who affixed a mezuzah, a four to five inch long object of their religious faith, on the inside doorpost of their front door. Stone Ridge Association asked residents to either take down their mezuzahs or purchase a screen door costing between $300 to $500 dollars to conceal the object.
     

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