Commack Rental Complex Accused of Redlining


The owners and operators of a Commack rental complex allegedly discriminated against African American rental applicatnts by misrepresenting the availability of apartments in the predominantly white community, according to a federal lawsuit.

The superintendent of the 107-unit Mayfair Garden Apartments allegedly discouraged African Americans from renting apartments by misrepresenting the availability of apartments, not showing available apartments and misrepresenting the dates apartments were available to rent, the suit claimed. Such practices are known as “redlining.”

“When white testers inquired about apartments, they were provided assistance, encouragement, and accurate information,” said Fred Freiberg, executive director of the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC), a Manhattan-based nonprofit advocacy group that is one of the plaintiffs. “In contrast, African American testers were greeted with a mélange of misrepresentations to discourage and exclude them.”

FHJC and Syosset-based ERASE Racism filed the complaint against Empire Management America Corporation and Square Realty Group at federal court in Manhattan, where the two companies are based. It also names the complex superintendent, who was unavailable for comment. Attorneys for the companies could not immediately be reached for comment.

The companies are accused of racial discrimination in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act and the Suffolk County Human Rights Law. The plaintiffs are seeking future compliance with fair housing laws, unspecified monetary damages and attorney’s fees.

The plaintiffs jointly funded and sponsored the investigation, in which several teams of comparably qualified African American and white testers posing as prospective renters inquired about apartments at the complex last year. The suit is the latest in a series of such cases that the advocacy groups have filed using the technique.

“Discrimination is not an idea of the past,” said Elaine Gross, president of ERASE Racism. “As I stand here today, in 2015, we are still engaged in a fight to overcome discrimination and make fair housing a reality on Long Island, the 10th most racially segregated metropolitan region in the country.”