Interfaith Action Network Monthly
December 2019

Ready, Set, Action
Season’s Greetings from all of us at the Fair Housing Justice Center. Whatever form your celebration takes, we wish you a very warm and peaceful holiday season. We are already gearing up for the work ahead in the new year. We also want to celebrate you – friends and supporters of fair housing – as the year comes to a close. Thank you for being partners in this vital work!

Now, check out some updates on what we have been working on this past month.
Educate
Below are some educational resources we recommend for you to learn more about fair housing.
  • This month’s big story in the fair housing world is Newsday’s release of Long Island Divided, the most exhaustive study on fair housing ever conducted by a media outlet. The 70-page story, spread over two separate issues, is the result of a three-year investigation in which pairs of undercover testers were equipped with hidden cameras and sent to real estate offices across Long Island. Two testers — of different races, but of the same gender and about the same age, with similar income and housing preferences — would independently approach the same agent to test whether they were treated differently based on their race. 86 tests were conducted, with testers receiving a total of 5,763 listings for homes. FHJC was contracted by Newsday to help train the testers, establish testing protocols, and assist with the coordination of some of the early tests. Additionally, FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg served as an unpaid expert consultant, providing commentary on the test results.

  • Differential treatment was observed on 40% of the tests conducted. Asian testers experienced disparate treatment 19% of the time, Hispanics 39% of the time, and African Americans 49% of the time. The recordings revealed evidence that some agents engaged in “racial steering” or provided other differential treatment. Agents also failed to serve predominantly minority communities on Long Island.

  • The online version of the story includes an enormous amount of additional material, including a 40-minute documentary entitled “Testing the Divide,” a number of shorter sub-topic videos, over 50 pages of articles that appeared in Newsday on November 17 and 18, interactive maps, and details about all of the tests conducted including full access to 240 hours of unedited video recordings of the tests. To reach the widest audience possible with this landmark report, Newsday has removed its customary online paywall for this story. Readers can access the documentary and the report for free HERE. Read FHJC’s statement on the report HERE.

  • The FHJC filed complaints in two new discrimination lawsuits last month:

  • On November 13, the FHJC filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York alleging that two major New York developers, an architectural firm, and a building owner failed to design and construct a rental building in compliance with accessibility requirements under local, state, and federal fair housing laws. The defendants named in the lawsuit are Brause Realty, Inc., Gotham Organization Inc., FX Collaborative Architects (FX FOWLE), and Purves Street Owners LLC. The complaint alleges that the developers failed to comply with accessibility requirements in the design and construction of a 38-story, residential rental building built in Long Island City in 2017 called The Forge. Several of the defendants have been named in previous disability discrimination lawsuits. Read more about the new complaint HERE.

  • On November 20, the FHJC and four African American testers filed a lawsuit in federal district court (EDNY) alleging that the owners, employees, and agents of two rental buildings in the predominantly white Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn are discriminating against African American renters. The defendants named in the lawsuit include 1125 63rd Street, LLC; 1137 63rd Street, LLC; Kostas Paxis; Mary Paxis; and Paul Paxis. An undercover investigation by the FHJC revealed that African American testers were consistently quoted higher rents than their white counterparts. The case is yet another example of the subtle, hidden nature of housing discrimination, and the need for systemic investigations. Read more about the lawsuit and the investigation HERE.
Advocate
Time to get out and advocate in your community! Below are some advocacy updates and ways that you can get involved.
  • The Newsday story is creating shock waves throughout the real estate industry, housing agencies, and the civil rights community. While the report’s findings come as no surprise to those familiar with the history of discriminatory housing laws and policies on Long Island, the outcry serves as a wake-up call to politicians and industry officials. Three State Senate committees have already scheduled a hearing on housing discrimination, the first such hearing in at least three decades. As the region’s leading fair housing organization and a consultant on the Newsday story, the FHJC is expected to be called to testify, along with witnesses from the real estate industry and state regulatory agencies. Senators are hoping that testimony from the hearing will result in policy reforms that could be introduced in the next legislative session. The FHJC has already called for New York’s Division of Licensing Services (DLS) to open an investigation of the real estate agents tested by Newsday. The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 12 at the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola. Will the hearing lead to meaningful reforms? Will Long Island begin to chip away at its reputation as the most segregated suburb in America? Stay tuned for updates on how to get involved.

  • Have you checked out the list of 30 Ways You Can Advance Fair Housing in our Fair Housing Toolkit? Way #5 is Report Housing Discrimination You Witness or Experience. If you are the victim of discrimination or you learn about discriminatory practices in your community, report them to a fair housing organization or government enforcement agency. Reporting this conduct is doing your part to stop housing discrimination. You can create change and help make your community more open to everyone.
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:
  • We were thrilled to take part in Becoming a Matthew 25 Church: Tools for Advocacy, a day of advocacy training sponsored by the Justice Ministries Committee of the New York City Presbytery. Leaders from the national Presbyterian Church (USA) and NYC-area nonprofits gathered at First Presbyterian Church in Greenwich village for a series of seminars focused on dismantling structural racism and eradicating systemic poverty. FHJC’s Community Engagement Coordinator Craig Waletzko and FHJC/Union Theological Seminary Intern Nordia Bennett presented a workshop focused on fair housing history and activism viewed through a faith-centered lens. Special thanks to organizers Nicole Stansifer and Rev. Mark Keonig for the invitation. When members of faith communities join forces in the fight against discrimination, we truly are building the beloved community!
  • The New York State council of Churches is sponsoring a series of seminars in various cities across the entire state. Who Is My Neighbor is a day of conversation for leaders and members of religious communities which have advocated for needed change in their neighborhoods, cities, and regions. The day-long conference will be centered on congregational work to offer hospitality to the stranger and strengthen the social fabric, with emphasis on the architectural, zoning, financial and social barriers that stand in the way. The next seminar day is Tuesday Jan 28 at Community Reformed Church in Mahasset, Long Island, and FHJC has been invited to participate. Stay tuned for more details about this important event.

  • This newsletter is sent to all FHJC friends and supporters. If you are interested in hearing more about our work from a faith-based perspective, please consider joining the Interfaith Action Network, if you haven’t already done so. The Interfaith Action Network is comprised of diverse religious congregations and faith communities, ordained clergy and lay leaders who share a commitment to fair housing and willingness to take action to address fair housing issues and concerns as they arise. Sign up for the Network HERE.

“Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”  

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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