The Legal Aid Society and Mayer Brown File Suit Against A Brooklyn Landlord for Refusing to Rent to Low-Income People Using City Subsidy
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 02, 2015

A Brooklyn landlord’s refusal to rent to tenants who plan to pay rent through the City’s Living in Communities (LINC) Rental Assistance Program prompted a lawsuit by The Legal Aid Society and Mayer Brown LLP.

The suit was filed in New York County Supreme Court on behalf of a homeless woman, a couple with two children, and the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC). "It's totally illegal of this landlord to say that they are not going to accept tenants because of how they are going to pay their rent," Robert Desir, a Staff Attorney in the Civil Law Reform Unit, told DNAinfo. The lawsuit charges Starrett City, Inc., and Grenadier Realty with source of income discrimination.

Judith Goldiner, Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit, told the Daily News that the litigation is designed to get landlords to "open their doors" to the LINC Rental Assistance Program.

HRA Commissioner Steven Banks said in a statement that The Legal Aid Society informed his agency that Spring Creek Towers, the apartment complex, wasn't accepting the rental vouchers. He added that his agency was glad legal action was being taken.

"People receiving rent assistance have the same legal right to rent an apartment as anyone else," he said. "HRA will take firm action anytime we learn ‎of discrimination against families receiving rent help."




New York Daily News
Brooklyn landlord sued for allegedly refusing to let low-income people rent apartments using city’s subsidy program
By Barbara Ross
August 31, 2015

A homeless woman and a couple with two children are suing the owners of Spring Creek Towers in Brooklyn for refusing to let them rent apartments that would be paid for in part by the city's new housing subsidy program for the poor.

Regina Alston and Sandra Vaughn-Cooke contend in papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court that the landlord of the 153 acre complex, known as Starrett City, broke the law by discriminating against them on the basis of their incomes.

Judith Goldiner, the Legal Aid Society supervisor spearheading the suit with the private law firm, Mayer Brown, said the litigation is designed to get landlords to "open their doors" to the LINC (Living in Communities ) Rental Assistance Program.

Under LINC, qualified tenants pay 30% of their income toward the rent and the city pays the rest.

Alston, a school bus attendant, says in the suit that she was living in a Brooklyn shelter with her partner and two children when she got a LINC voucher and tried last February to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Spring Creek for $1,390. The rental office staff said the landlord was not accepting LINC.

She is now living in a city project, where she says her family is frightened regularly by the sound of gunshots near and in their complex.

Vaughn-Cooke, a 64-year-old actress who graduated with a law degree from Howard University, says she also was told by the rental office that she could not use a LINC voucher to pay for a one-bedroom unit renting for $1,191. So, she says, she's stuck in a Brooklyn shelter contending with bedbugs and other vermin.

"Real estate is so hot right now that landlords won't take anyone who can't pay it all on their own," Goldiner said.

"We cannot solve New York City's homelessness crisis if landlords do not comply with the fair housing laws which clearly bans discrimination on the basis of income."

Landlord attorney Niles Wilekson declined to comment.




DNAinfo.com
Spring Creek Towers Sued for Barring Tenants on De Blasio's Rent Program
By James Fanelli
September 2, 2015

EAST NEW YORK — The country's largest federally subsidized housing complex has been illegally turning down families hoping to lease its apartments using rent vouchers from a program Mayor Bill de Blasio started to combat homelessness, a new lawsuit charges.

Regina Alston and Sandra Vaughn-Cooke are suing the owner and property manager of Spring Creek Towers in Brooklyn, claiming the housing complex discriminated against them after they inquired about available apartments.

When Alston and Vaugh-Cooke each inquired, they were living in emergency shelters and qualified for rent vouchers through de Blasio's Living in Communities Rental Assistance Program. The vouchers help cover the monthly rent of families with limited income.

But Spring Creek representatives told Alston and Vaughn-Cooke that the housing complex did not accept the vouchers, according to the lawsuit. The city's Human Rights Law prohibits landlords from discriminating against prospective renters based on their source of income.

Tenant advocacy group Fair Housing Justice Center, which joined Alston and Vaughn-Cooke as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, also had members contact representatives at the Spring Creek about available apartments. The Spring Creek representatives also told the group's members that they would not accept the rental vouchers, according to the lawsuit.

"It's totally illegal of this landlord to say that they are not going to accept tenants because of how they are going to pay their rent," said Robert Desir, a Legal Aid lawyer representing Alston, Vaughn-Cooke and Fair Housing Justice Center.

After being turned down for an apartment in February, Alston, a city bus attendant, was forced to remain in a rat-infested emergency shelter with her domestic partner and their two children, the lawsuit says. Eventually, they moved into a less-desirable NYCHA apartment at Lafayette Gardens in Brooklyn.

In late July, Spring Creek representatives told Vaughn-Cooke that they wouldn't accept her voucher. Vaughn-Cooke, an actress, then contacted Fair Housing Justice Center.

In early August, she received an application from Spring Creek, according to the lawsuit. She submitted the application on Aug. 20, but has not gotten a response from Spring Creek, the lawsuit says.

The owner of Spring Creek Towers, Starrett City Inc., and the property manager, Grenadier Realty, declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

Spring Creek Towers, which was formerly known as Starrett City, consists of 46 buildings with 5,881 apartment units in East New York.

De Blasio introduced the Living in Communities Rental Assistance Program a year ago to help families move out of shelters and into stable housing. The city's Human Resources Administration oversees the initiative.

HRA Commissioner Steven Banks said in a statement that the Legal Aid Society informed his agency that Spring Creek wasn't accepting the rental vouchers. He added that his agency was glad legal action was being taken.

"People receiving rent assistance have the same legal right to rent an apartment as anyone else," he said.

"HRA will take firm action anytime we learn ‎of discrimination against families receiving rent help."