Settlement Ends Discrimination At Poughkeepsie Rental Property

Attorney General Spitzer today announced the settlement of a housing discrimination lawsuit which alleged that a Poughkeepsie landlord repeatedly refused to rent to minority tenants.

Marion Swords Rutherford owns the former Brinckerhoff estate which is located at 85 South Hamilton Street. With the help of her daughter, Barbara Rutherford, the Rutherfords rent out four apartment units at this historic Victorian home, which was built to resemble a riverboat ferry similar to those Captain Brinckerhoff sailed on the Hudson River centuries ago.

The lawsuit arises out of an investigation prompted by a complaint filed by Shante Gause with the Attorney General's Poughkeepsie office in April of this year. Ms. Gause, who responded to an ad in the Poughkeepsie Journal, was dismayed when she was told that the apartment could not be rented because she was African American. Marion Rutherford allegedly explained that before she could rent to persons of color she would have to create a separate entrance, something that she could not afford to do. The investigation uncovered two additional victims of this discriminatory conduct.

"The law protects all New Yorkers from being victims of discrimination because of their race, religion, sex, age, orientation or any other protected class," said Spitzer. "We will guarantee everyone the right to full and equal access."

Without admitting any wrongdoing, Marion and Barbara Rutherford consented to the entry of an order that enjoins them from discriminating against African Americans in the rental of these apartments. The order also enjoins them from discriminating against other persons because of their religion, sex, disability, familial status, marital status, national origin, or age. Three victims of the discriminatory practices of the Rutherfords will each receive $4,000 in damages, and other victims who file claims with the Attorney General's office before November 17, 2000 will be eligible for similar damages. If you believe you have been a victim of discrimination, you should contact Mary Kavaney, Assistant Attorney General In Charge of the AG's Poughkeepsie Office, at (914) 485-3900, to file a claim.

In addition, the Attorney General's Office will monitor the rental practices of the Rutherfords, for three years, to insure compliance with the order. The order requires that the Rutherfords include in any future advertising a specific disclaimer that they do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, marital status, national origin, or age, which is mandated by state and federal law.

The Attorney General's office recently held a public education forum in upstate New York to educate landlords on state and federal fair housing laws.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General In Charge of the Poughkeepsie Office Mary Kavaney, and Assistant Attorney General Tanya Washington of the AG's Civil Rights Bureau, which is under the direction of Bureau Chief Andrew Celli.