Interfaith Action Network Monthly
February 2021

Ready, Set, Action
Belated welcome to 2021! A new year, a new administration, and most importantly, the beginnings of a vaccine rollout that may mean real hope for ending the pandemic.

Like civil rights advocates all over the country, we at the Fair Housing Justice Center were thrilled to read President Biden’s recent memo on housing discrimination, a candid acknowledgement of our country’s troubling history of discriminatory housing practices and policies, and a pledge to fight for open, inclusive and accessible communities. Here’s hoping that 2021 will mark the beginning of some real systemic change when it comes to fair housing.

Now check out some of what we’ve been up to at the FHJC, and ways you can get involved.
Below are some educational resources we recommend for you to learn more about fair housing.
What do we really mean when we talk about “the streets?” Does the meaning change depending on the audience, or the speaker? In her new book How the Streets Were Made: Housing Segregation and Black Life in America, author Yelena Bailey examines the creation of “the streets” not just as a physical, racialized space produced by segregationist policies, but also as a sociocultural entity. Recalling Ta-Nehisi Coates, Bailey draws distinctions between being of the streets and being from the streets, and analyzes the streets through the lens of marketing campaigns, literature, hip-hop, film, and television in order to gain a better cultural understanding of a phenomenon that has influenced our understanding of Blackness in America for decades. Learn more about the book HERE.
In January, the FHJC announced a new settlement in a federal lawsuit involving race discrimination at an apartment building in Astoria. An undercover testing investigation in 2019 revealed widely disparate treatment of Black and white testers sent to the 46-unit rental building located at 34-08 30th Street. African American testers who visited the building were lied to about availability of units, told the building was too expensive for them (despite never being asked about their income), and were ultimately quoted higher rents than white testers were quoted. Ironically, the superintendent who made many of these false statements began his lies by using the phrase “To be honest.” While the defendants deny liability, the settlement calls for them to pay $70,000 and comply with a broad range of injunctive relief measures. Read more about the lawsuit and the settlement HERE.

Another recent discrimination lawsuit involves a real estate broker accused of telling an African American man and his Afro-Puerto Rican wife that that they “would not be comfortable” in the Midwood, Brooklyn home they were visiting at an open house because it was in a “Jewish neighborhood.” In subsequent phone calls with the couple, the suit alleges, the broker and her husband continued making discriminatory comments to the couple, suggesting they would be more comfortable interacting with neighbors in other, more predominantly African-American areas. The broker also used the prospect of the couple’s children playing with neighbors as a reason for avoiding Midwood. The broker, her husband, and her real estate company Elite Connect are named as defendants. Read more about the case HERE.
Time to get out and advocate your community! Below are some advocacy updates and ways that you can get involved.
Back in December, we wrote about several FHJC-supported housing bills making their way through the state legislature in Albany. These bills were drafted in the aftermath of the State Senate hearings in response to the rampant discrimination uncovered in the Newsday story Long Island Divided, which FHJC consulted on. We are thrilled to announce that on Feb 10th, the Senate passed a package of ELEVEN bills that work to combat housing discrimination. These bills will now move on to the Assembly:

Additionally, two other FHJC-supported bills are still in committee, working their way to the Senate floor:

You can add your support for the bills by clicking any of the above links and voting “aye.” You can also send comments on the bills to your representatives in the state legislature. Complete instructions on using the State Senate website can be found HERE

In 2019, we reached out to friends and supporters urging you to get involved pushing back against the Trump administration’s attempts to weaken fair housing law enforcement through a series of policy rollbacks. With a new administration in place, including new Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge, those rollbacks will soon be up for reversal. Stay tuned for some upcoming outreach on making your voice heard in the fight to restore these important enforcement tools.

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:
In a recent special column for USA Today, South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn compared the current political moment to the turbulent mid-1960’s, and sees glimmers of hope for systemic change. The civil rights icon points to the parallels between then and now – massive recent civil rights protests, a new president claiming to be committed to greater equality – and sees the possibility of serious government action to strengthen our democracy in pursuit of “a more perfect union.” Although he admits that “We still have a long way to go to achieve the beloved community of which Dr. King dreamed,” he recommends King’s books "Why We Can’t Wait" and "Where Do We Go From Here" to add context to our understanding of the current political moment. Read the full article HERE.

Is your congregation or community organization interested in learning more about fair housing? Becoming informed about fair housing rights and fair housing issues in our communities can empower us to act. Knowing our rights puts us in a better position to exercise those rights. As part of our Building the Beloved Community initiative, the FHJC conducts fair housing presentations for congregations and community organizations across the NYC region. During COVID, these presentations are taking place online, with engaging conversation and Q&A sessions in addition to information on a broad range of fair housing issues. Learn more about how you can request a training in your community HERE.

“The larger your beloved community, the more you can accomplish in the world.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh

Fair Housing Justice Center | 30-30 Northern Blvd., Suite 302, Long Island City, NY 11101
| (212) 400 - 8201 | (212) 400 - 8203 |