Suit claims discrimination against black renters at Sunnyside apartment complex

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Management officials at a Sunnyside apartment complex are facing a federal lawsuit for racial discrimination after they allegedly snubbed three African-Americans from renting apartments.

NASA Real Estate Corporation — which owns the 41-41 46th Street building — and superintendent Irfan Bekdemir are being sued for allegedly lying to three African-Americans, claiming no apartments were available for rent, and refusing to show them any openings, according to the suit.

Lisa Darden, James Edward Becton and Bianca Jones claim Bekdemir rejected them each but showed vacancies to white individuals who inquired about the same apartments less than an hour after they were slighted.

“You look like nice people. That’s why I show you,” he allegedly told the white potential buyers, the lawsuit said.

The three African-Americans listed as defendants in the suit, and the white individuals, were all hired by the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) to pose as potential renters, the suit said. The nonprofit organization said the investigation was part of systematic testing FHJC conducts to uncover discriminatory practices in the city.

“Individual renters are often unaware that discrimination is occurring,” said Fred Freiberg, executive director of FHJC. “If housing discrimination is not detected, it is not reported. Yet, these odious practices restrict housing choice and perpetuate residential segregation.”

Bekdemir told The Courier his name in the suit is a mistake, since it is not his job to handle renters.

“I never have a problem with anybody,” said the employee of 25 years. “There are a lot of people here. It looks like the United Nations.”

But of the 108 total apartments in the complex, only two or three are occupied by African-American families, he said.

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