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OPEN HOUSING CENTER FILES LAWSUIT ALLEGING HOUSING DISCRIMINATION BY BROOKLYN REAL ESTATE AGENCY
The Open Housing Center of New York has filed a federal class action lawsuit accusing a Brooklyn realty company of illegal housing discrimination against African Americans, the Center and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo announced today.
The Open Housing Center, which receives HUD funding, said it filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn against Ted Bouzalas Realty, located at 9002 Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, and its owners/agents Theodoros (Ted) Bouzalas and Eleni Kambeseles.
In the suit, the Open Housing Center seeks to require the realty firm to stop discriminating and to offer minorities equal opportunity at rental units. It also seeks monetary damages to pay for fair housing training and advertisements in minority media to inform minorities of rental units in the Bay Ridge area.
The Center said the suit was based on tests that showed the realty company consistently turned away prospective black tenants by telling them no apartments were available - at the same time it was showing apartments to whites.
"Unfortunately, housing discrimination isn't just part of our past, but remains a harsh reality that hurts far too many Americans today," Cuomo said. "That's why HUD is reaffirming its commitment to the crackdown on housing discrimination that we began in September at President Clinton's direction."
President Clinton's proposed 1999 federal budget seeks $22 million in increased funding for HUD to intensify the fight against housing discrimination. The 73 percent increase for HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity would boost spending by the office to $52 million.
"This year is the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act, and it is a sad commentary that such blatant, up-front discrimination against African Americans is occurring," said Phyllis Spiro, Deputy Director at the Open Housing Center. "This lawsuit seeks to stop that practice."
Bouzalas Realty owns or manages many buildings, including seven properties involved in the lawsuit with 231 apartment units. The complexes are located in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, a predominantly white, moderate-income area.
The Open Housing Center said in its lawsuit that it investigated the rental practices of the realty company after receiving complaints that Bouzalas Realty did not rent to blacks.
The Center said it conducted six tests using African American and white testers posing as prospective tenants.
On each occasion, the Center said white testers were either shown apartments and/or told about specific upcoming vacancies, while the black testers were not told about upcoming vacancies or were told falsely that no apartments were available. The paired tests took place within hours of each other and all the testers had similar requests and were prepared to say they had similar incomes if asked, the Open Housing Center said.
The Fair Housing Act bars housing discrimination on account of race, color, religion, sex, disability, family status and national origin. The Act covers the sale, rental, financing and advertising of almost all housing in the nation. Fair housing investigations are conducted by HUD investigators, state and city agencies working with HUD, and private fair housing groups that receive HUD funds, such as the Open Housing Center.
HUD operates a toll-free national hotline to take housing discrimination complaints, in both English and Spanish, at 1-800-669-9777.
Content Archived: January 20, 2009