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HUD FILES CHARGE AGAINST NEW YORK LANDLORDS ACCUSED OF DISCRIMINATING AGAINST WOMAN BECAUSE OF BIRACIAL GRANDSON
WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo today announced that HUD has filed a housing discrimination charge against New York landlords accused of telling a white grandmother she would have to move out of her apartment because she planned to occasionally care for her 3-year-old biracial grandson.
HUD filed the discrimination charge against landlords Laura and Agustino Craveiro under the federal Fair Housing Act. The Craveiros briefly rented out a second-floor apartment in their home in the Long Island, NY community of West Islip to Ann O'Dea.
The Craveiros and Ms. O'Dea are white. Ms. O'Dea's grandson - Travis Lightsey - is biracial, with a white mother (Ms. O'Dea's daughter) and a black father. Travis was 3 years old when his grandmother moved into the apartment in the Craveiro home on May 31, 1997.
"All of us want the opportunity to live and raise our children in any home and in any neighborhood we can afford," Cuomo said. "Illegal housing discrimination that stands in the way of that opportunity is intolerable, and we will fight it in every city and every state across our nation."
The housing discrimination charge filed against the Craveiros carries civil penalties of up to $44,000 plus monetary compensation for damages, humiliation, mental distress, loss of housing rights, attorney fees, and court costs if an Administrative Law Judge rules against the couple. If either side chooses to take the case to federal court, higher damages can be awarded.
The Fair Housing Act bars housing discrimination on the basis 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.
Ms. O'Dea said that the day after she moved into the apartment in the Craveiro home, she told Mrs. Craveiro - in response to a question - that she occasionally cared for her grandson, Travis, on Saturdays. Ms. O'Dea said Mrs. Craveiro, who asked about Travis' racial background, then said: "I have to ask, can you baby-sit elsewhere, because the neighbors object to it."
About an hour later, Ms. O'Dea said Mrs. Craveiro told her: "Ann, I have to ask you to leave, I don't want any trouble. You have until the 30th to get out." Ms. O'Dea's friend, Donna Steiman, said she was present during the conversation. She said Ms. O'Dea began to cry uncontrollably after Mrs. Craveiro told her to move.
Later the same day, in a telephone conversation tape recorded by Ms. Steiman, Mrs. Craveiro said she didn't care about Travis' skin color, but said her neighbors were concerned.
Ms. O'Dea then contacted Long Island Housing Services, a private non-profit group that receives HUD funding to fight housing discrimination. An investigator for Long Island Housing Services sent Mrs. Craveiro a letter on June 27, 1997 advising that a housing discrimination claim had been made against her.
The following day, Ms. O'Dea said she and Ms. Steiman heard Mrs. Craveiro screaming (through a door separating Ms. O'Dea's apartment from the rest of the Craveiro home) that she had received the letter from Long Island Housing Services. Ms. O'Dea and Ms. Steiman said they heard Mrs. Craveiro say: "That little bitch, she call me a racist. I hope that little nigger spends the rest of his life in jail! She can have her nigger grandson wherever she goes, but not in my neighborhood."
Two days later, Mrs. Craveiro served a 30-day eviction notice on Ms. O'Dea, and Ms. O'Dea moved out of the apartment on July 15, 1997. Ms. O'Dea filed a complaint with HUD in June of 1998, and a HUD investigation culminated in the charges announced today.
"When all this happened, I was stunned," Ms. O'Dea said. "I was just shocked at how blatant this discrimination was, it made me physically sick. It was the first time I'd ever been hit by the kind of discrimination that black people face, and I hated the feeling. I can only imagine what it's like living with that for a lifetime."
Ms. O'Dea said she waited almost a year to decide whether to file her complaint with HUD, and acted because "I wanted to stop this disgusting and deplorable discrimination. No one should have to put up with this."
The Craveiros deny Ms. O'Dea's allegations. Mrs. Craveiro told investigators she commenced an eviction action based on Ms. O'Dea's non-payment of rent. Ms. O'Dea said she stopped payment on her first rent check after Mrs. Craveiro told her to move out, but that the Craveiros still had her security deposit.
Mrs. Craveiro also said her previous home was located in a predominantly black neighborhood, and that she previously rented to a black family with one child.
Cuomo said that HUD will be able to continue moving aggressively against housing discrimination as a result of increased funding for the effort in its new budget for Fiscal Year 2000. The budget for the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity rose from $40 million in Fiscal 1999 to $44 million in Fiscal Year 2000.
People who believe they've been harmed by housing discrimination can file complaints with HUD by calling 1-800-669-9777, TDD 1-800-927-9275 or on the Internet.
Content Archived: January 20, 2009
Content Archived: January 20, 2009