New York, NY

Families of choice: Gay seniors settle into a niche

July 26, 2006
Jack Norris and Seymour Sirota feared ending up like a lot of older gay men they know — no children, partners dead or gone, families estranged, little to do but sit in their New York City apartments hoping the phone rings.
     The couple tried retiring in Tampa but never felt comfortable there. They considered Sun City Center, Fla., until they heard about gay men who had moved in and promptly fled back into the closet. "We didn't want to go that route, not at this point in our life," Norris says.

Racial steering reported

June 21, 2006
A Hewlett real estate agency is facing accusations of illegally steering minority home buyers away from purchasing in certain neighborhoods and making anti-Semitic comments about the area to potential home buyers.
     The National Fair Housing Alliance and Long Island Housing Services will be filing an administrative complaint today against Julia Stevens Realty in Hewlett, arguing that two real estate agents there steered black prospective home buyer testers away from the properties, schools and areas they encouraged whites to consider, and vice versa.

A citizen of the world, at home in the Bronx

April 17, 2006
Maybe love found him as he walked down the ghost canyon of ruined and abandoned buildings on Boston Road. Or maybe it was the Honduran woman who fed him sweet plantains in her tiny kitchen or the ice that formed on his chest while sleeping in the unheated basement of an illegal squat. Or it could be those Puerto Rican teenagers who wrote heartfelt poetry for his community newspaper.
     Hard to know where or how he fell in love with a wounded beauty like the Bronx. But in the end he did, and it's probably forever.

The ads discriminate, but does the web?

March 05, 2006
THE Internet is, in many ways and by design, a lawless place.
     If this newspaper were to publish a classified advertisement for an apartment rental that said, say, "African Americans and Arabians tend to clash with me so that won't work out," it would be liable for housing discrimination under the federal Fair Housing Act.
     Yet Craigslist.org, the enormous online forum, posted that very ad in July, and most legal experts say, as the law stands today, Craigslist bears no responsibility for it.
     That is the result of a social bargain made 10 years ago, meant to nurture what was then a strange and nascent thing called the Internet. A part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 said that online companies are not liable for transmitting unlawful materials supplied by others.
     Now that the Internet is more mature, some legal experts say, it may be time to re-examine that bargain, and to ask some fundamental questions. Are online companies common carriers, like the phone company or FedEx, and so not responsible for the content of what they transmit? Or are they like newspapers and magazines, which are held accountable for publishing advertising they had no part in creating?

Lender Ameriquest pays $325m to settle predatory lending case

January 25, 2006
Ameriquest Mortgage Co., the largest lender to people with poor credit agreed to pay $325 million as settlement of a predatory lending case.
     The lender was accused of malpractices in 49 states in the US. A seven-state inquiry led by Washington that lasted two years found that the firm's salespeople had inflated home appraisals and encouraged borrowers to provide false information about income and employment.

Civil rights champion Constance Baker Motley dies, 84

September 29, 2005
When she was 15, Constance Baker Motley was turned away from a public beach because she was black. It was only then -- even though her mother was active in the NAACP -- that the teenager really became interested in civil rights.
     She went to law school and found herself fighting racism in landmark segregation cases, including Brown v. Board of Education. Motley also broke barriers herself: She was the first black woman elected to the New York state Senate and the first black woman appointed to the federal bench.
     Motley, who would have celebrated her 40th anniversary on the bench next year, died Wednesday of congestive heart failure at N.Y.U. Downtown Hospital, said her son, Joel Motley III. She was 84.

NYC human rights law strengthened; mayor in opposition

September 16, 2005
The most comprehensive strengthening of the city’s human rights law in 14 years was passed overwhelmingly on September 15, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- who opposed the bill in public hearings -- is not saying whether he will sign it or not.
     “This bill broadens the scope of the city’s human rights law, and adds protections for people who may currently be slipping through the cracks: couples who have entered into domestic partnerships and people who have experienced retaliation for reporting violations of the human rights law,” said Councilmember Gale Brewer, the chief sponsor of the legislation, The Local Civil Rights Restoration Act, Intro 22-A. “Perhaps more importantly, it clearly acknowledges that the city’s law often provides more protection than state and federal law." The bill would require the application of the stricter standards of city law when someone is discriminated against illegally in New York City.

Insurers look to limit claims from flooding

September 10, 2005
With insurers potentially facing billions of dollars in losses from Hurricane Katrina claims, battle lines have begun forming as carriers argue that they aren't responsible for flooding excluded from standard homeowners policies.
     The majority of homes in areas slammed by the hurricane have policies that cover wind and rain damage, but relatively few had extra insurance to cover flooding. Insurers are posturing to limit damages by saying massive flooding in New Orleans is a separate event from the hurricane itself.
     This distinction could save insurers billions of dollars from a catastrophe billed as the costliest natural disaster to face the industry. Some carriers even have adopted the phrase "The Great New Orleans Flood" in an effort to make that distinction more tangible.

Hot housing market opens doors for fraud

July 29, 2005
For mortgage scammers, deed thieves and property flippers, this is the Golden Age.
     The chatter in New York, as it is in Washington, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Miami, is of housing riches quickly realized. Prices have tripled in those cities, and 70 percent of Americans now own a home. But for thousands of working-class and poor Americans, the venture into homeownership has brought misery at the hands of the unscrupulous.
     "We've never seen so many schemes and such complexity to the fraud," said Sarah Ludwig of the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, which has helped lead investigations into predatory lending in New York. "Everyone works to defraud: the broker, the appraiser, the attorney and the inspector. Before a homeowner knows it, they are in way over their heads."
     Maria Elena Mateo is one of the victims. The Dominican immigrant wanted only to buy a house with a back yard for her three children and a bedroom for herself. But a lawyer, a real estate agent and an appraiser pressured her into buying an overvalued and uninhabitable home in Brooklyn, according to court papers. She has expended her life savings of $13,000 trying to repair it.
     "My kids thought their mommy was getting them a house," said Mateo, 41, tears flowing. "Everything was lies."
     Echoes of such homeowner pain can be heard across the nation. Fueled by loose credit and lending standards, a growing number of "subprime" mortgage companies and rogue bands of scam artists are using false appraisals to inflate prices, stripping equity from elderly homeowners and even persuading untutored homeowners to surrender their home deeds.

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