Yaphank Community Ordered to Allow Non-German Residents


A German-American community built on the grounds of a former Nazi-sympathizer camp in Yaphank is required to stop discriminating against non-German prospective home buyers under the terms of two recent court settlements.

The German American Settlement League (GASL) was required to reform its housing policies last year to settle a federal suit filed by former residents who said the rules violated the Fair house Act and made it difficult to sell their home. But, because the GASL still discriminated against buyers after that settlement was reached, it was required to update those policies again this year, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Wednesday.

“The GASL’s discriminatory practices were a remnant of a disgraceful past that has no place in New York or anywhere,” Schneiderman said. “This agreement will once and for all put an end to the GASL’s discrimination, ensuring that all New Yorkers are afforded equal access to housing opportunities—regardless of their race or national origin.”

The community was established on land that was the pro-Nazi Camp Siegfried before WWII, where streets were named for Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Goring, among other leading Nazis, historians say. The land was later transferred to the GASL, which existed in relative obscurity until the lawsuits highlighted its Nazi roots.

“People in other parts of town look at us and think this is closed to non-Germans,” Robert Kessler, the former GASL president, told The New York Times in 2015 when the first suit first made news. “That’s just not true.”

But the AG’s office said that when investigators first began looking into the GASL—which leases the land that the homes are on to member-residents—authorities found the group’s bylaws limited membership to the organization and home ownership on GASL property was restricted to individuals “primarily of German extraction and of good character.”

The policies violated federal, state and local laws by historically excluding individuals of non-white, non-German heritage from home ownership and membership in the GASL, Schneiderman said.

Under last year’s federal lawsuit settlement, the GASL was required to no longer limit membership to people with German ancestry, permitting members selling their home to be able to advertise houses for sale publicly instead of limiting such ads to within the community and having the group’s leadership undergo training in fair housing laws, among other reforms.

But the revised rules still made it unreasonably difficult for non-white, non-German prospective buyers to get into the community, the AG’s office said.

The new settlement requires the GASL to explicitly cease discriminating on the basis of race or national origin, publish notices that it is committed to equal housing opportunity, implement a written record-retention policy to ensure proper storage of its documents, report compliance with the agreement to the AG’s office for three years and immediately replace the group’s president and treasurer.