Homeless New Yorkers Sue Starrett City And Grenadier Realty In Class Action For Continuing Discrimination At Spring Creek Towers

Four homeless or formerly homeless New Yorkers filed a class action lawsuit today seeking to intervene in a case against Starrett City Inc,. and Grenadier Realty Corp., after those landlords illegally discriminated against the plaintiffs by refusing to process their applications for apartments at the Spring Creek Towers development, located at 1255 Pennsylvania Avenue, Brooklyn. Despite having lost a court decision in the same case last year - in which the plaintiffs are represented by Mayer Brown LLP and the Legal Aid Society - Starrett and Grenadier continue to illegally turn away homeless applicants for apartments if the applicants indicate they will use City-provided LINC housing subsidies to help pay their rent. The non-profit organization Fair Housing Justice Center is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

At a time of record homelessness in New York City, Starrett and Grenadier have adopted a policy of refusing to accept LINC housing subsidies, which Mayor Bill de Blasio created to enable shelter residents to move out of shelter and back into the community, at Spring Creek. As a result, the 60,000 homeless New Yorkers living in the City's shelters are illegally denied the opportunity to move into one of Spring Creek's 5,881 apartments, prolonging their time in shelter, at taxpayer expense.

Last year, the New York State Supreme Court found in this case that this policy was in violation of the City's Human Rights laws, which prohibit discrimination based on source of income. Starrett and Grenadier have appealed the court's decision, but no judge has granted them relief from the clear language of the decision, and their discriminatory policy remains illegal.

"I just want to move my family out of shelter and get my daughter and I a place we can call home, " said Intervenor Alaire Chappell.

"We have zero tolerance for landlords who break the law by discriminating against New Yorkers who receive rental assistance to help make ends meet," said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. "We will continue to work with Legal Aid and other legal services providers and community organizations to expose and prosecute landlords who break the law."

"We regret that Starrett and Grenadier continue to refuse to comply with the law," said Robert Desir, a staff attorney at Legal Aid and one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. "New Yorkers have a right to apply for any apartment they choose, free from discrimination, and anyone who can show they can pay the rent is entitled to be considered as a potential tenant."

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg commented, "The troubling allegations presented in the amended complaint filed today amply demonstrate that the defendants continue to discriminate based on source of income and defiantly refuse to comply with the City Human Rights Law. This class action seeks to stop the defendants from trampling on the fair housing rights of individuals and families seeking to use Living in Communities ("LINC") vouchers to secure decent affordable housing."

The discriminatory actions of Starrett City, Inc. violate the New York City Administrative Code which prohibits owners from discriminating against anyone looking to rent or purchase real estate based on the individual's lawful source of income. The lawsuit points out that the LINC Program also serves taxpayers by moving residents out of publicly funded shelters into permanent housing.

The lawsuit charges that the plaintiffs have suffered damages based on the discriminatory actions of Starrett and Grenadier. For example, Ms. Chappell and her child were forced to remain in a crowded, unsanitary shelter at government expense after Starrett and Grenadier sent her a letter saying they would not process her application because she would pay with LINC. FHJC has been forced to divert its limited resources into identifying and counteracting Starrett's unlawful housing practices.

The plaintiffs seek a Court order declaring the defendant's discriminatory practices violate the New York City Administrative Code and enjoining the defendant from denying housing based on lawful source of income. The lawsuit also seeks to have the applications of the plaintiffs re-evaluated.

Attorneys handling the case for The Legal Aid Society in addition to Mr. Desir include Judith Goldiner, Attorney in Charge of Civil Law Reform, and Joshua Goldfein and Beth Hofmeister, Staff Attorneys in the Homeless Rights Project of the Civil Law Reform Unit.