By Bill Parry
The city brought charges against a Ridgewood landlord for retaliating against immigrant tenants after they reported him to the Commission on Human Rights for discrimination based on their immigration status.
In March, the commission served the landlord a notice of the complaint, alleging discrimination after Make the Road New York brought the case to the commission. In a response letter to the commission, the unidentified landlord denied the allegations and sent a copy to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which included tenants’ personal information, in violation of the retaliation protections within the city’s Human Rights Law.
“My landlord has been harassing and threatening me and my family for over a year. Most recently, he started threatening us with ICE unless we moved out of our apartment immediately,” said a tenant and member of Make the Road New York. “With the help of Make the Road New York and the Commission on Human Rights, I know that I have rights, and I no longer feel that I have to live in fear.”
The commission is now charging the landlord with retaliation against his tenants and is filing a complaint against him on behalf of the city. The commission is not releasing the names of the tenants out of fear for their safety, and will not name the landlord because the investigation is ongoing.
“Our message is loud and clear: We will hold landlords accountable for discrimination in our city,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “We stand with tenants, regardless of their origin in Queens and across the five boroughs.”
The commission, which has the authority to fine violators with civil penalties of up to $250,000 for willful and malicious violations, as well as compensatory damages for victims, has notified the landlord of the retaliation charges and was awaiting a response.
“The commission will not hesitate to take action against bad actors when they retaliate against New Yorkers who have reported discrimination,” said Assistant Commissioner of the Law Enforcement Bureau Sapna V. Raj. “The NYC Human Rights Law makes it illegal to retaliate against any individual for reporting discrimination, regardless of the 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.”
The commission is currently investigating 291 claims of discrimination on immigration status, and/or national origin, with 89 of the claims specifically about housing.
This repeated harassment and retaliation against immigrant tenants is unlawful and unacceptable in New York City,” said Commissioner Nisha Agarwall, of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “It is very unfortunate that certain bad actors feel emboldened to follow Washington’s lead in hostility towards immigrants. We are proud of our colleagues at the NYC Commission on Human Rights for taking action, standing with our fellow New Yorkers, and making clear that immigrants’ rights must be respected in our city.”
Learn more about housing protections against discrimination in New York City at www.nyc.gov/
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr