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Post date: October 23 2006

West Seneca Apartment Complex To End Racial Discrimination

Attorney General Spitzer today announced a consent decree settling a racial discrimination lawsuit filed against the owner of a large apartment complex in Western New York. The decree resolves civil charges filed in Federal District Court in Buffalo against the owner of the Royal York Gardens Apartments in West Seneca.

The decree requires the owner, Royal York Liberatore Family Limited Partnership, to comply with fair housing laws, ensure that staff undergo anti-discrimination training, take affirmative steps to increase tenant diversity, and pay $25,000 to the State.

"It is illegal and unfair to systematically deprive people of the opportunity to live in an apartment building based on their race or color," Spitzer said. "Such practices serve only to perpetuate segregated communities. By imposing fines and penalties on landlords who engage in unlawful discrimination, we hope to send a clear message that such misconduct will not be tolerated."

The lawsuit was based on results from a series of tests supervised by Spitzer’s office and conducted by Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME), a non-profit organization that focuses on ensuring fair and equal access to housing in the Western New York area. In each test, a white tester and a black tester went to the complex and expressed interest in renting an apartment. The testers were provided with comparable financial profiles so that they would be viewed as equally qualified to rent.

The tests revealed that the Royal York rental agent consistently treated the minority testers differently. The discriminatory practices included refusing to show prospective black tenants apartments that were shown to prospective white tenants; denying the availability of apartments; failing to provide full and complete information about the availability of apartments; and encouraging prospective white tenants to rent apartments while not providing the same encouragement to prospective black tenants. Spitzer’s office gathered extensive evidence during the litigation to confirm the existence of these discriminatory rental practices.

The consent decree requires the owner of the complex to:

  • Ensure that all employees receive training concerning the requirements of federal and state fair housing laws;
  • Retain a qualified fair housing organization to conduct periodic unannounced tests to ensure future compliance with the terms of the decree;
  • Maintain records that will allow the Attorney General to verify future compliance with fair housing laws;
  • Display the Equal Opportunity logo in future advertisements;
  • Take steps to increase the diversity of the complex by advertising available units in publications widely circulated in minority communities, and
  • Pay $25,000 to the State to cover fines, penalties, damages, and the costs of the litigation;

"It's no accident that Buffalo-Niagara is the seventh most racially segregated metropolitan area in the nation," said Scott W. Gehl, Executive Director of Housing Opportunities Made Equal. "This sort of race discrimination deprives people of color of the opportunity to live in good communities offering better employment opportunities and schools--and deprives those communities of the benefits of diversity."

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey K. Powell, with the assistance of Assistant Attorney General James Morrissey under the supervision of Natalie R. Williams, Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau.