Interfaith Action Network Monthly
April 2020

Ready, Set, Action
As our city, our nation, and the entire world confront an unprecedented health crisis, the Fair Housing Justice Center extends its best wishes for the health and safety of all our friends and supporters. Like so many other organizations, our staff is currently working from home, continuing the fight against housing discrimination despite these terribly uncertain times. Click HERE for our full statement regarding our work during the crisis.

Since the creation of the Building the Beloved Community interfaith initiative in 2018, this Interfaith Action Network newsletter has been a digest of fair housing updates and opportunities to engage in this work. In these unsettling times, we will also be offering suggestions for books, films, and other sources of uplift and positivity. Dr. King’s long arc of the moral universe continues bending towards justice, even now.
Below are some educational resources we recommend for you to learn more about fair housing.
  • This month’s book recommendation is How the Suburbs Were Segregated by Paige Glotzer, assistant professor and John W. and Jeanne M. Rowe Chair in the History of American Politics, Institutions, and Political Economy at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Glotzer offers a new understanding of the deeper roots of suburban segregation, beyond the familiar story of federal policies created during the New Deal and the Second World War. By following the money that financed early suburbs in the 1890s and scrutinizing the practices of early real estate developers, Glotzer reveals how mid-century exclusionary polices were the result of long-term efforts by developers to use racism to structure suburban real estate markets. How the Suburbs Were Segregated is another astonishing example of how U.S. housing segregation didn’t “just happen.” Learn more about the book HERE.
  • Looking for some uplift during these uncertain times? This month we’re recommending the new Netflix documentary, Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award. Executive produced by Barack and Michelle Obama, Crip Camp tells the story of Camp Jened, a summer camp in the Catskills for young people with disabilities. During its years of operation from the 50's into the 70's, the camp fostered a sense of community and creativity that fed directly into the American disability rights movement. The documentary also links the struggles of the disabled to other fights for civil rights. Jake Coyle writing for The Washington Post wrote, "[the film] unfolds as a broader chronicle of a decades-long fight for civil rights — one that has received less attention than other 20th century struggles for equity". Netflix subscribers can view the film HERE. (Non-subscribers can sign up for a free 30-day membership.)
  • Earlier this year, the FHJC announced two new lawsuits. The first alleges that the owners and superintendent of 34-08 30th Street, a 40-unit apartment building in Astoria, Queens, are discriminating against African American prospective renters. An undercover testing investigation revealed widely disparate treatment of prospective tenants, including misrepresenting apartments as unavailable, and quoting higher rents for African American applicants than for white applicants. Click HERE to read more details.

  • The second new lawsuit involves source of income (SOI) discrimination by Parkchester Preservation, which owns and manages 6,000 rental units in the Bronx. The suit alleges that in August 2019, Parkchester rejected an applicant based on his credit even though he possessed a subsidy that would pay 100% of the rent. Although SOI protections have long been in place in New York City, this is believed to be one of the first SOI lawsuits to filed under the new statewide law passed in 2019. Read more details about the lawsuit HERE.
Time to get out and advocate in your community! Below are some advocacy updates and ways that you can get involved.
  • On February 11th, FHJC Policy Coordinator Britny McKenzie and Investigative Coordinator Frank Oleszko traveled to Albany as part of the #EndIncomeBiasNY coalition’s 2020 Lobby Day, advocating for resources to enforce New York’s new source of income protections. It is now illegal statewide to discriminate against people using non-wage income to pay for housing, such as veterans’ or disability benefits, Section 8 vouchers, or child support. But despite the new law, many landlords and property management companies still refuse to rent to the more than 570,000 New Yorkers who depend on non-wage income to obtain housing. The coalition members met with state senators and assembly members, encouraging them to fund enforcement efforts to give the new law some actual meaning. More information on the coalition and ways you can get involved can be found HERE.
  • Last November’s Newsday story Long Island Divided (in which the FHJC played a major role) has continued to generate tremendous impact in 2020. On January 27, the FHJC presented a screening of the accompanying documentary, Testing the Divide, at Hunter College’s Lang Recital Hall. The screening was followed by a panel discussion and a lively Q&A session with Project Editor Arthur Browne, Long Island Deputy Editor and Investigative Reporter Keith Herbert, and FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg. The event was hosted by Rutgers Law Professor and civil rights expert Elise Boddie.
  • Later that week, Freiberg participated in a Newsday Live event on the Brentwood campus of Suffolk County Community College, moderated by NY1 television anchor Errol Louis. Other panelists included ERASE Racism founder and president Elaine Gross, NAACP Regional Director Tracey Edwards, New York State Attorney General's Civil Rights Bureau Head Jessica Clarke, and representatives from several other political offices, civil rights organizations, and real estate industry associations. State Sen. Kevin Thomas and others called for substantial funding in the 2020-21 state budget for paired testing to root out housing discrimination. Bryan Greene, director of fair housing policy at the National Association of Realtors and a former federal housing official said in an interview, “Events like this provide information and background on the problem. Conversations can lead to change.” Newsday’s full coverage of the event, including video clips, can be found HERE.
  • Long Island Divided is also having a major impact on the real estate industry. The story and the accompanying video revealed severe flaws and inconsistencies in the way the industry conducts fair housing training for its members. The FHJC was invited to attend the New York State Association of Realtors (NYSAR) Mid-Winter Business Meetings in Albany in February for a “Train the Trainers” session. Fred Freiberg, Craig Waletzko, FHJC Legal Director Marie Winfield, and Diane Houk of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP provided the attendees with precise guidelines for navigating the most recent changes in fair housing laws, as well as a fresh perspective on the historic, deliberate role the industry has played in creating and sustaining segregation in this country. Those many decades of intense coordinated effort need to be met with an even stronger determination to undo the problem. We thank NYSAR for the invitation and look forward to a time when fair housing will be treated with the importance it deserves.
Building the Beloved Community
Want to get involved in the Building the Beloved Community interfaith initiative in some other way? Below are some updates from our interfaith initiative.
  • FHJC Community Engagement Coordinator Craig Waletzko joined representatives from over 20 different faith communities, housing advocacy groups, legal organizations, and design and architectural firms on January 28 for the Who Is My Neighbor conference at Community Reformed Church in Manhasset, Long Island. Organized by the New York State Council of Churches, the day-long seminar focused on the architectural, zoning, financial and social barriers that stand in the way of congregational work to offer hospitality to the stranger and strengthen the social fabric. The next seminars in the statewide series have been rescheduled due to the COVID-19 crisis and will now take place May 19 in Syracuse and June 16 in Saratoga Springs. Click HERE to learn more.
  • We were thrilled to be a part of Segregated by Design, a student-led symposium on segregation in New York City at United Nations International School (UNIS). Craig Waletzko and playwright/actor and FHJC ally Justin Carter delivered a presentation on fair housing history and contemporary efforts to fight segregation. A highlight of the symposium was a theatrical presentation by a group of UNIS students who had visited our offices last Fall for a presentation and Q&A session. The transcript of that visit was then used as the basis for an original theater piece detailing the deep personal effects of housing discrimination and renewing the call to fight against injustice. Read more about UNIS’s Human Rights Project HERE. It is always inspiring to see how the next generation of activists is truly dedicated to making a difference!
“As a nation, if we care for the Beloved Community, we must move our feet, our hands, our hearts, our resources to build and not to tear down, to reconcile and not to divide, to love and not to hate, to heal and not to kill.”

- Congressman John Lewis
Fair Housing Justice Center | 30-30 Northern Blvd., Suite 302, Long Island City, NY 11101
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