New York, NY

A new arena in the fight over smoking: the home

November 05, 2007
Jill and Joanie Shockley just want to breathe clean air in their homes. Neighboring tenants want to smoke in theirs.
     The Shockleys are sisters who live down the hall from each other in an apartment complex in a suburb of St. Paul, where tobacco smoke from other units wafts daily into their homes.
     “It’s frustrating,” said Joanie Shockley, 59. “I like to have my grandchildren come over, and I don’t like for them to be exposed to people smoking.”
     The Shockleys are part of a growing movement to restrict smoking in apartments and condominiums that is having some success.

HUD Charges a New York housing authority with violating Housing Act

October 14, 2007
Tuckahoe Housing Authority refused to rent unit to women because of her disability
     The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it has charged Tuckahoe Housing Authority (THA) with housing discrimination for denying a public housing unit to a disabled woman.
     Specifically, HUD alleges that THA's "working family" policy violated the Fair Housing Act by subjecting the woman to different terms, conditions, and facilities because of her disability.

Aging and gay, and facing prejudice in twilight

October 09, 2007
Even now, at 81 and with her memory beginning to fade, Gloria Donadello recalls her painful brush with bigotry at an assisted-living center in Santa Fe, N.M. Sitting with those she considered friends, “people were laughing and making certain kinds of comments, and I told them, ‘Please don’t do that, because I’m gay.’”
     The result of her outspokenness, Ms. Donadello said, was swift and merciless. “Everyone looked horrified,” she said. No longer included in conversation or welcome at meals, she plunged into depression. Medication did not help. With her emotional health deteriorating, Ms. Donadello moved into an adult community nearby that caters to gay men and lesbians.

Housing bias litigation against county allowed to proceed

July 17, 2007
In a decisive ruling, U.S. Federal District Court Judge Denise Cote has denied Westchester County’s motion to dismiss a False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuit brought by the Anti-Discrimination Center. The decision is the first in the country to hold that an advocacy group can use the FCA to challenge a local government’s certification that it has affirmatively furthered fair housing. According to the Center’s lawsuit, Westchester received at least $45 million through false certifications that it was meeting its obligations to affirmatively further fair housing. The case will now proceed through discovery. If found liable at trial, Westchester could be assessed treble damages and civil penalties.
     The Court found that, “[b]ecause the Fair Housing Act and its implementing regulations do require a grantee to identify impediments to nondiscriminatory housing choice within its jurisdiction and to take appropriate steps to overcome any such identified effects, the complaint does state a claim for a violation of the FCA.” (Decision, page 20).
     The Court stated that, in identifying impediments to fair housing choice, a grant recipient “must consider impediments erected by race discrimination, and if such impediments exist, it must take appropriate action to overcome the effects of those impediments.” (Decision, page 29).

Sociologists are zeroing in on how resegregation is shaping U.S.

July 09, 2007
Critics of last month's Supreme Court decision outlawing race-conscious desegregation efforts by local school districts are right to predict that the result will be more racial isolation - more students who grow up without meeting, befriending or learning from peers who hail from a different background.
     In fact, the resegregation of American schools has been going on for more than 15 years with little fanfare, according to a series of studies published by the Civil Rights Project, a research institute led by sociologist Gary Orfield that recently moved from Harvard to UCLA.

Questions Your Broker Can’t Answer

June 24, 2007
WHAT kind of people live in this building?”
     That is often the first question brokers are asked by apartment hunters — be they couples with children, retirees seeking peace and quiet or 20-somethings prone to the occasional raucous party.
     But in recent months, thousands of brokers have learned that in answering that question, they might just be breaking the law. Many real estate ads, for instance, use “family friendly” to describe large apartments. But according to a strict interpretation of federal, state and local fair-housing laws, that is illegal.

NY BigLaw team scores big win for disabled

May 25, 2007
Elegant outrage from Southern District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein in a case of housing discrimination against the developmentally disabled has a team of Clifford Chance lawyers talking of their recent courtroom victory as potential landmark law.
     "What does this precedent mean?" asked James F. Moyle, a Clifford Chance partner who led his firm's five-member pro bono team. He quoted the judge in answering his own question, "It's a grand slam home run for people with disabilities because he said, 'They are us as we are they.'"

Defending against discrimination claims

May 16, 2007
In what may prove to be a significant victory for cooperative and condominium boards sued for housing discrimination, an appellate court recently applied the protection of the business judgment rule to a discrimination claim for disability accommodation.
     In Pelton v. 77 Park Avenue Condominium, et al., the plaintiff—a unit owner suffering from muscular dystrophy—claimed that the condominium and the nine members of its board discriminated against him in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law.

Condo says disabled ok to move in

May 11, 2007
An upper Manhattan condo board that allegedly barred the sale of two apartments after learning that mentally disabled adults would be moving in has reversed itself after losing key decisions in a federal housing-discrimination lawsuit.
     The about-face by The Bennett's board let the sale close this week. It came after Judge Alvin Hellerstein said in March: "It's really not tolerable in New York City in the United States at this point in time to stand in the way of this sale."


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