Interfaith Action Network Monthly
January 2020

Ready, Set, Action
With a transformative 2019 behind us, we are looking forward to an exciting and busy new year. In addition to our regular ongoing work in fair housing enforcement and policy advocacy, we are working on some new educational and outreach projects, including our original off-Broadway play in April. Here’s to a fruitful and prosperous new year, and to making even greater strides in the fight against housing discrimination in 2020!
Educate
Below are some educational resources we recommend for you to learn more about fair housing.
  • November’s historic Newsday article Long Island Divided continues to generate tremendous waves throughout the civil rights community, legislative circles, and the real estate industry. The report’s accompanying documentary film, Testing the Divide, will receive a free screening this month at Lang Recital Hall at Hunter College, hosted by the FHJC. Three years in the making, the forty-minute film follows the Newsday team as they set out to discover what role real estate agents might play in keeping Long Island one of America’s most segregated areas. With guidance from the FHJC, pairs of undercover testers of different races and ethnicities are equipped with hidden video cameras and sent to meet with agents and brokers to record their interactions. The video evidence of disparate treatment is striking, as are the testers’ reactions when viewing each other’s taped interactions with the same agent. The film also examines Long Island’s history of housing laws and policies, the devastating generational harms of housing discrimination, and includes commentary by fair housing experts. There will be a discussion and Q&A session following the screening featuring panelists who are prominently featured in the film, including Project Editor Arthur Browne, Long Island Deputy Editor and Investigative Reporter Keith Herbert, Undercover Tester Lenora Smith, and FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg. The event promises to be an evening of thoughtful reflection and engaging conversation. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are encouraged. Click HERE to reserve your seat, or visit http://bit.ly/TTDScreening. Reserve your seat now, as space is limited.
  • Most studies of fair housing history focus on the discriminatory attitudes of institutions like the government and the real estate industry. But this month’s recommended book, The Color of Compromise, details how racist ideas and practices have been maintained by the American church. Written by Jemar Tisby, president of the black Christian collective The Witness, the book takes readers on a historical journey from America’s early colonial days through slavery and the Civil War, covering the tragedy of Jim Crow laws and the victories of the Civil Rights era, to today’s Black Lives Matter movement. It reveals the obvious—and the far more subtle—ways the American church has compromised what the Bible teaches about human dignity and equality. Tisby uncovers the roots of sustained injustice in the American church, highlighting the cultural and institutional tables that need to be turned in order to bring about real and lasting progress between black and white people. Through a story-driven survey of American Christianity’s racial past, he exposes the concrete and chilling ways people of faith have actively worked against racial justice, as well as the deafening silence of the white evangelical majority. Tisby does more than diagnose the problem, however. He charts a path forward with intriguing ideas that further the conversation as he challenges us to reverse these patterns and systems of complicity with bold, courageous, and immediate action. Read more about this fascinating book HERE.
Advocate
Time to get out and advocate your community! Below are some advocacy updates and ways that you can get involved.
  • On December 12th, in the wake of the groundbreaking Newsday story, three New York State Senate committees - Committee on Housing, Construction and Community Development; Committee on Investigations and Government Operations, and Committee on Consumer Protection - held joint public hearings into housing discrimination on Long Island and statewide. Among the witnesses invited to testify were Newsday publisher Arthur Browne, New York State Association of Realtors President Moses Seuram, both Long Island County Executives, several Newsday undercover testers, and a representative from the State Attorney General’s office.

  • Of special note – of the 68 real estate agents and companies that were invited to testify, only one, M. Ryan Gorman, president and CEO of the nation’s largest residential brokerage company Realogy Holdings Corp.’s NRT LLC, chose to attend. The senators called for subpoenas to compel many of the remaining 67 to testify.
  • FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg and ERACE Racism President Elaine Gross offered some of the day’s most compelling testimony. Freiberg compared real estate brokerages to the state’s restaurants, which must pass random, unannounced inspections. “When it comes to public safety, public health or protecting public funds,” he stated, “proactive investigations are nothing new.” He also agreed with Gross that complaint-responsive testing is ineffective because of the subtle, hidden nature of modern discrimination. “Today, the image of a slammed door has been replaced with a revolving door … (clients) are simply steered away from their desired housing, and violators have simply learned to conceal their discriminatory conduct.” Asked by senators to grade, on a 1-10 scale, how seriously the state takes housing discrimination, Gross said: “I would put it at a minus-one. The state is failing to do its job with rigor and urgency.”

  • Coinciding with Freiberg and Gross’s their testimony at the hearing, FHJC and ERASE Racism released a joint set of policy recommendations to address housing discrimination on Long Island. Rooted in the organizations’ shared longstanding focus on housing discrimination and their previous collaboration on investigations similar to those documented in the Newsday report, the plan is organized around five points:
  1. Fully utilize the licensing power of the State to better regulate real estate licensees;
  2. Create a well-resourced, proactive, and better coordinated fair housing enforcement strategy;
  3. The real estate industry should take affirmative steps to ensure compliance with fair housing laws;
  4. Affirmatively further fair housing in all housing and community development activities;
  5. New York State should implement fair housing legislative initiatives, policy changes, and support for programs that expand access to housing opportunities in all neighborhoods.

  • Several Senators at the hearing made strong statements of support for increased enforcement budgets, revamping licensing requirements, and other policy recommendations. As the next state budget moves toward completion, FHJC and other organizations will be watching closely to hold these legislators to their word. Stay tuned for any upcoming calls to action!
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:
  • Brooklynites! City Council Member Robert E. Cornegy Jr. has invited the FHJC to be a part of Council District 36th’s next monthly Advisory Board Meeting focusing on fair housing, tenant support and resources. If you or someone you know is a constituent of the district which includes Bedford-Stuyvesant and parts of Crown Heights (or are just wanting to learn more about these crucial issues), we hope you’ll attend. The meeting is Saturday January 11, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM in the Multipurpose Room at Restoration Plaza, 1368 Fulton Street, Brooklyn NY 11216.
  • On Tuesday Jan 28th, the FHJC will join Long Island Housing Partnership, ERASE Racism, the Community Development Corporation of New York, Enterprise Community Partners, American Institute of Architects, and many others at a conference in Manhasset Long Island entitled “Who is My Neighbor,” organized by the New York State Council of Churches. Leaders and members of religious communities are invited to attend the day-long event. The goal of the seminar is to help congregations:
  • Refocus on your mission and love your neighbors well.
  • Build relationships and lead in your communities to address attitudinal, structural, planning challenges like Not in My Backyard, zoning rules, and outdated comprehensive plans, which often prevent cities from welcoming people of all races and incomes.
  • Learn from architects, attorneys, clergy and others how to restore sanctuaries and community space, maximize rentals, build child care centers, schools, arts centers, food pantries, and construct affordable housing.
  • Explore opportunities for financing.
  • Go to WWW.NYSCOC.org to register, to see samples from past seminars, and view resource materials. If you have questions or would like to discuss your congregation’s needs and situation, contact The Reverend Peter Cook. Executive Director, New York State Council of Churches at Pcook@nyscoc.org or 508-380-8289. We look forward to having you join us!
“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 | www.fairhousingjustice.org