Attorneys for a jilted apartment hunter have filed an action against a Midwood realty company claiming that it would not show the woman an apartment because she was black.
Attorneys for Vanessa Lee said that the realty company, Bais Seller Realty and Construction, located on Avenue P, also discriminated against their client because she wasn’t Jewish.
In court papers filed last week in Brooklyn’s federal court, Lee alleges that when she first called the realty company in 2007, she was told that there was an apartment available for her.
The realtor on the other end of the phone then asked her if she was Jewish, attorneys allege.
When she said she wasn’t, the realtor suddenly said that the apartment was not available to her to rent.
Lee then went to the realtor’s office, and was told that no one was able to show her apartments.
At the behest of Lee, members of the pro-housing group Fair Housing Justice Center sent a white woman to the realty company, claiming to be looking for an apartment.
The woman was shown an apartment immediately, attorneys at Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP said.
“When a real estate company intentionally engages in a pattern of restricting access to housing on the basis of race as is alleged in this complaint, it not only hurts those directly injured by these practices but it is an affront to our entire community,” said attorney Mariann Meier Wang.
Officials at the Fair Housing Justice Center noted that “Forty years after the passage of a federal fair-housing law, we find a real estate company in New York City systematically making housing unavailable by refusing to provide service to and negotiate with African Americans.”
“Over and over again, [the defendant] consistently refuses to show prospective African-American tenants available rental apartments while at the same time bending over backwards to show white customers those very same apartments,” the lawsuit states. “Over the course of an intensive four-month investigation prompted by Ms. Lee’s concern the Fair Housing Justice Center deployed nine different testers to determine whether African Americans and whites were being treated differently.”
“The results of the investigation are as disturbing as they are disheartening,” the suit continues. “Every single one of the African Americans to visit this realtor was told to fill out a form and then told they would be called without being provided any information about available listings. Every one of the five white individuals was immediately and promptly served in a solicitous and eager manner.”
A message for comment left with Bais Seller Realty and Construction was not returned by press time.
Too heavy a burden
Brooklyn landlords forced to pay thousands of dollars in restitution to a tenant’s family whose children succumbed to lead poisoning petitioned the court unsuccessfully to have the verdict set aside, claiming that the heavy fines they’re facing didn’t make sense.
Officials said that back in 2007, a jury determined landlords Maria Notias, Stravos G.. Notias, Kalliopi Notias, Jian Pyng Tan and Yi Ching Tan had to pay $260,000 in punitive damages as well as $380,000 and $420,000 for future pain and suffering that infant plaintiffs Wendy Solis-Vacuna and Yesenia Solis would sustain now that both of them have been diagnosed with lead paint poisoning – toxins they were exposed to while staying at the defendants’ apartment.
Attorneys for the defendants, however, claim that they shouldn’t pay for future pain and suffering because the jury never awarded any damages for past pain and suffering, and made a motion to set aside the verdict.
The defendants also alleged that the jury’s verdict was “against the weight of the evidence presented at trial.”
“The jury’s finding of future pain and suffering, without any finding of past pain and suffering, is inconsistent and that the award of future damages was speculative as there was no evidence that either plaintiff had suffered injury at trial,” attorneys said in their petition. “The punitive damages cannot stand as no evidence was presented to support a finding that the Defendants acted with ‘reprehensible motives’ or ‘malice’ in failing to remove lead paint conditions from the apartment.”
After going over the court transcripts, Judge Wayne Saitta dismissed the motion, claiming that the punitive and future damages were “justified on the facts of this case.”