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File photo/QNS
File photo/QNS

The city’s Human Rights Commission has charged a Ridgewood landlord for allegedly harassing immigrant tenants in his building — including threatening to report them to federal immigration officials — after they filed a discrimination complaint against him.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and the commission announced the charges on Wednesday morning, July 19. The mayor’s office declined to identify the landlord and the approximate location of the apartment building, citing concerns about the tenants’ safety.

Earlier this year, according to the commission, tenants at the building went to Make the Road New York — a nonprofit group that advocates for immigrants’ rights — and reported that the landlord was actively discriminating against them based on immigration status. Make the Road New York filed a complaint with the commission, which subsequently served the landlord in March with a notice about the complaint.

The mayor’s office said that the landlord refuted the charges and indicated that he sent a copy of his letter to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which included the tenants’ personal information. According to the commission, this violates the city’s Human Rights Law’s retaliation protections.

The city’s Human Rights Law prohibits landlords from discriminating against or harassing tenants because of their national origin or immigration status.

As a result, the Commission on Human Rights has charged the landlord with retaliation against his tenants. The landlord has been notified, and the city is awaiting a response.

“Our message is loud and clear: we will hold landlords accountable for discrimination in our city,” de Blasio said in a statement. “We stand with tenants, regardless of their origin, in Queens and across the five boroughs.”

“The Commission will not hesitate to take action against bad actors when they retaliate against New Yorkers who have reported discrimination,” added Sapna V. Raj, assistant commissioner of the Law Enforcement Bureau at the NYC Commission on Human Rights. “The NYC Human Rights Law makes it illegal to retaliate against any individual for reporting discrimination, regardless of their immigration status. Everyone in New York City deserves the right to live free from discrimination and harassment and should not fear for their safety when reporting violations of the law.”

Ryan Napoli, senior staff attorney at Make the Road New York, said that there has been a significant increase in harassment cases against immigrant tenants since Donald Trump was elected president last November. Removing undocumented immigrants from the U.S. and building a wall on the Mexican border were two of Trump’s biggest talking points on the campaign trail.

“The Commission on Human Rights has been an important partner and advocate for the immigrant community in combating this intimidation, and we applaud the Commission’s actions in this case,” Napoli said.

If convicted, the Ridgewood landlord could face civil penalties of up to $250,000 and may also be required to pay compensatory damages to the tenants. The commission may also order the landlord to undergo training on the city’s Human Rights Law and/or provide community service or mediated apologies.

In related matters, the Human Rights Commission recently sent a cease and desist letter to Zara Realty Holding Corporation in Jamaica over allegations that it similarly discriminated against immigrant tenants. Last month, Queens landlord Jaideep Reddy was also served notice by the commission over similar allegations. The commission is reportedly considering further enforcement action against both parties.

The city encourages anyone who believes they are victims of discrimination or harassment by landlord to call 311 (ask for the NYC Commission on Human Rights) or call the commission’s hotline at 718-722-3131. Reports may be filed anonymously.

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