By Rebecca Henely
An Astoria apartment building has agreed to pay $341,000 and institute fair housing measures as the result of a lawsuit by the nonprofit Fair Housing Justice Center alleging the building’s management discriminated against potential black tenants.
“This settlement demonstrates that fair housing policies and practices can be achieved when the laws are vigorously enforced,” said Bernhard Blythe, president of the center’s board.
The center, based in Manhattan, filed a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court against Broadway Crescent Realty Inc., M & N Management Corp. and its agents, Louie Dodaj and Pranvera Celaj, in January 2010. The realty company owns a 72-unit apartment building at 23-35 Broadway in Astoria and M & N manages the building.
The suit claimed four black testers and other white testers had been sent to the Broadway apartment building. While the black testers were supposedly told no apartments were available, the white testers were told about and often shown apartments. The center alleged the buildings operators were participating in racial discrimination.
The defendants denied that they had committed any wrongdoing, but both parties agreed to resolve the claims to avoid the cost of litigation, according to the court agreement signed by Manhattan Judge Colleen McMahon.
Calls to Mark Stofsky, the Brooklyn attorney for Dodaj and Celaj, were not returned.
As a result of the suit, Broadway Crescent Realty agreed to pay $341,000 in legal fees for the center’s attorneys and in damages to the black testers. The organization is also required for the next four years to pay for fair housing training for its employees, to create a non-discrimination policy written in English and Spanish that must be signed by every employee and post U.S. Housing and Urban Development posters in its offices.
In addition, the realty and management corporation must advertise itself as Equal Housing Opportunity on craigslist.com and elsewhere, as well as following local, state and federal fair housing laws.
McMahon signed the agreement Nov. 7.
Manhattan attorney Diane Houk, who represented the center as well as testers Justin Carter, Kaaron Minefee, Michael James and Adrienne Williams, praised the agreement.
“While it is deplorable that racial discrimination in housing persists, strong advocacy for fair housing makes it possible to change this reality so that we need not accept it as a permanent or irreparable condition,” Houk said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.