Yonkers, NY co-op pays $102,500 to family after board member objects to children in unit above hers

The Westwater Commons Corporation, a Yonkers apartment co-operative agreed to pay $102,500 to settle a fair housing lawsuit brought by the United States Department of Justice and the King family. A November 25, 2002 consent decree resolved allegations that the co-op rejected the King family’s application for an apartment after a board member objected to having children in the unit above her unit.

In addition to the monetary payment to the King family, the consent decree enjoins the  co-op from asking applicants whether they have children or if they intend to have children.

The case was originally filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in mid-1999. In November 1998, Barbara King attempted to purchase an apartment at Westwater Commons for $66,500. Westwater’s board of directors had final approval over the sale and asked King to submit an application for coop membership. The application required a list of the names and ages of all persons that would reside in the apartment and whether children would reside in the apartment. The board also requested interviews with King and her teenage son, Shawn.

On February 17, 1999, the board interviewed King and her son, Shawn. On February 26, 1999, the board rejected the Kings’ application. The board gave no reason for the rejection, but after King filed a complaint with HUD, the board claimed that King’s financial records indicated that she could not afford the apartment. The Justice Department complaint on King’s behalf asserted that she and her family were financially capable of handling the costs associated with owning the apartment, and that the board’s reasons for rejecting the family were pretextual and a mere cover story for their discriminatory actions against families with children.

Board member objected to having children in the apartment directly above hers

Records obtained by the Justice Department showed that the apartment King attempted to purchase was located above the apartment of Westwater Board Member Margaret Sharper. Sharper opposed approving the King family’s application, because she did not want someone with children living above her. Westwater Board President Daphne Meadows onfirmed that Sharper had opposed the King family’s application because two minor children would be living in the apartment above hers. Approximately one year later, the Westwater Board approved the sale of the apartment that the Kings had wanted to an applicant who had no minor children.

The consent decree that resolved this case will remain in effect for three years and requires that the co-op board receive fair housing training and keep extensive records
regarding future co-op applicants. Part of the monetary settlement (approximately $67,500) will likely be paid by Westwater’s insurance carrier.

Craig Gurian, a Brooklyn civil rights attorney, represented the King family as intervening plaintiffs in this case. Gurian can be reached at (718) 422-0066 or through his web site at www.antibiaslaw.com.