Sunnyside Post

Sunnyside NY news

Lawsuit claims housing discrimination at Sunnyside building

New York Times

In February, according to a lawsuit, when Lisa Darden went to a building in Sunnyside, Queens, and inquired about a one-bedroom apartment, the superintendent told her there were none available, and that he did not know when one might be.

Just over an hour later, the lawsuit states, another woman made the same inquiry. This time, the superintendent showed her a vacant apartment, told her he’d knock $100 off the rent because she was “nice people,” and handed her a rental application, according to the suit.

Ms. Darden is African-American, the other woman is white. The race-dependent availability of apartments was a pattern at the 107-unit apartment building at 41-41 46th Street, according to the Fair Housing Justice Center, a nonprofit group that sent both women out as discrimination “testers.”

For the full article, please click here.

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18 Responses »

  1. Don’t blame the hipsters Ruben, blame the superintendents!

  2. I’m saddened to read this. As a new resident of the area, who is also white, it is very likely that my race was a factor that eased my ability to rent. Although I was not aware of the discriminatory practices of some buildings in this area, (probably not just the one named,) I almost certainly benefited from it. As tenants, what are ways that we can work to combat this type of discrimination?

  3. Please keep in mind the NYT story is only reporting on allegations made in a lawsuit which have not yet been answered by the building owner or the super. Also note that the existence of the lawsuit was brought to the attention of the Times by the organization that started the lawsuit as a strategy to get the owner to settle early by giving the organization money and to gain publicity for the organization.

  4. @Oppressed Masses All you say may be true. Yet how do you explain the racial proportions in the eight block radius quoted in the article? By the way, my skin is very light. My apartment complex has been increasing the number of families of color for quite a while now, to such an extent that many white people who applied were turned away. In a moment of frankness the rental agent said to me, “I don’t want white people. They complain too much!” It later turned out he was accepting payoffs from many new immigrant applicants who don’t know it is against the law to ask for a “rental fee.” When several light skinned people I know said they tried to get an apartment by sliding an envelope across the desk, it was returned. The rental agent has dark skin. Anything and everything happens in NY. Go figure.

  5. When I moved into the hood I paid a rental fee. A months rent. Is it really illegal?

  6. i can show you many eight block radius in nyc (including the upper east and west side where most ny times people live,also park slope ,caroll gardens,astoria ,woodside and on and on that has a less than 2% african american ).typical times limousine liberal piece!

  7. Damn, at my store I give discounts to hot chicks all the time!!

  8. a black person gets discriminated against in sunnyside. This is very normal. next article please.

  9. Skillmanite, depends on who you paid the month fee to. If to a real estate agent it is not illegal. Sycamore, I don’t think the racial breakdown of an 8 block area means that housing discrimination is taking place. There are many 8 block areas in Jamaica and St. Albans where less than 2% white people live; does that mean that racial discrimination is taking place in those locations? I don’t know if housing discrimination occurred in the building cited in the Times article. My beef is that the Times did not report that the organization files many of these lawsuits, a number are dismissed because the “tester” stories are based on fraud and/or turn out not to be true, but a lot are settled because building owners find it easier to pay off the organization rather than litigate the claims.

  10. This is nothing new. Racial zoning and racially restrictive covenants WERE legal common practice for a very long time, including when this area was developed. What’s going on here though is a form of redlining which happens all over the city to this day. Go try and get an apartment in the middle of Chinatown if you’re not Asian, good luck. This isn’t an issue solely hosted by the white population of this area. In regards to the 2% figure of diversity? Way to cloud the true there without explanation, NYT. 46th st and 41/Skillman Ave??? Really? Is that not essentially one block from the center of the Sunnyside Gardens Historical district? The 2% figure doesn’t account for the fact that most of these homes have been in a family from before zoning laws were overturned. There’s a lot of complaints about young people moving in around here, changing the face of the neighborhood, etc. This is because a large portion of the community is over 60 and has been living here for 20-40 years. Things were very different FORTY YEARS AGO.

  11. **In regard…

    Ugh.

  12. @Oppressed Masses- it’s a very good point that the building owner hasn’t yet had the chance to respond. I hope that Sunnyside Post will report on the case after it concludes, as well. I’m not opposed to non-profits that use litigation as a strategic tool to bring attention to social problems, although you’re right that I shouldn’t immediately conclude that the allegations are true. Yet many folks in the comments section have said “This is nothing new. No surprise,” which seems to suggest that it could be a somewhat common practice. In any case, the lawsuit is raising awareness and maybe some conversation. Which is, of course, part of the point.

    As for whether Jamaica and St. Albans are experiencing discriminatory practices since they have such low %’s of white people- to a degree, yes. If there are unofficial discrimination policies and market forces that exclude a group of people from many areas in the city, then chances are there will be corresponding places that have a higher population of the excluded group.

  13. When I was looking for an apartment a few years ago, I was advised that to avoid paying a huge fee to some scummy broker, I should cut out the ‘middle man’ and seek out Supers of buildings for information about available apartments.

    As in other neighborhoods I looked in, in Sunnyside I’d say 19 out of 20 supers did nothing but direct me to brokers anyway. It is almost impossible in this city to find a place to live without paying these broker/extortion fees.

    When reading this article, I was astonished that this organization managed to find a building with a super who did NOT direct apartment hunters to brokers and seemingly did not ask for a kickback.

    Not to excuse the discrimination element, but I wonder exactly how this nonprofit group managed to find this particular building, and wonder if there is not some other motive behind the ‘investigation’ – such as some larger real estate concern wanting to buy up the property. Being that the New York Times real estate section is in bed with big developers, they might have a questionable motive for pushing this story as well.

  14. Ted – You make a very good point, most building owners use real estate agents to rent apartments because building superintendents are ill suited to handle the process. A building superintendent may not give an application because the super thinks the individual is not really interested in renting an apartment, like the testers employed by the non-profit advocacy group that started the lawsuit in the Times story, and the super may not realize he/she is being set up for litigation and the payment of money to the advocacy group.

  15. My building takes up an entire block and has its own rental agent. She is not an independent real estate agent, she works for management. And she only took fees from people who didn’t know it was illegal, new immigrants, many though not all of color. On another track, I’ve noticed that people tend to segregate themselves. Many seem to want to live with people of similar background and outlook.

  16. While there are some interesting points made here the possibility that white people are being discriminated against in Jamaica is not one of them. Nobody is going to stop white people from moving into mostly African American neighborhoods. Look at Harlem as an example. White people don’t want to move to these neighborhoods.

  17. im sorry Marilyn , but Harlem has plenty of white people, sunnyside is half white half Hispanic, and long island city is a pretty wide African American neighborhood. There are a lot of things why people may be rejected from a building and here in sunnyside is nothing new.

  18. I grew up in this building with the same management. I am of Hispanic race but nonetheless an American and I wish I could have been a witness to this case.
    These people (which are all family and lived in the building) are the most racist SOB’s I have ever met.

    My mother was a single parent with 2 kids. We were left without heat, hot water, etc plenty of times purposely and singled out. My mother worked 2 jobs and couldn’t give herself the luxury of taking off to spend countless hours in the courtrooms of Housing Court filing complaints and I was underage to file it for her. She used to just keep it moving…
    If “Hispanic” or “Dominican” looking people entered the building, they were stopped and asked if they were specifically going to our apartment when in fact we were not the only “Hispanic” family in the building. There were many tenants from Colombia and Ecuador, as well. We lived on this property for over 10yrs. I can’t say that it was a pleasant place. I was a teenager and perhaps didn’t understand much of what was going on or didn’t care at the time. It doesn’t surprised me that they are in this type of mess.
    We were harassed, humiliated in front of “Europeans” tenants by calling my 6yrs old brother and I derogatory names. The super’s kids used to steal our Holiday door decals right in front of us with no shame. The super was constantly creating bogus excuses to enter our apartment while I was home alone with my brother after school. If I wouldn’t open the door for him to check that “leak” that never was… he would call my mother (who would be at her second shift) making up stories till one day he accused me of doing drugs in one of the staircases. My mother had it with these people. She stopped paying them rent and we moved. Finding this article just proves that “Karma” does exist. Their “nephew” was the one really doing drugs in the staircase, is that crooked cop (all over the news) that was selling guns in the black market. He is now serving his prison term and will be deported after, since they are the ones that are 1st generation immigrants, yet treat others as if they own Sunnyside. I am actually a successful drug free property owner and fair landlord.

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