Sharing Truths About Housing Rights
By Jason Banrey
Marking the anniversaries of the Federal and City Fair Housing Laws, New York City’s Commission on Human Rights joined the Queens Library last Monday to inform borough residents of their rights as tenants and homeowners.
Gathering outside of Queens Library’s Flushing branch, Patricia Gatling, commissioner for the Human Rights Commission, kicked off the Fair Housing education campaign.
“Fair Housing means that New Yorkers have the right to live wherever they choose and be treated that same as everyone else,” Gatling said. “It’s an open city and our law is there to ensure it remains an open city.”
As a significant achievement under the Civil Rights Movement, the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968 and gave the federal government enforcement powers to protect citizens from discrimination.
The Commission’s campaign is also celebrating the 53rd anniversary of the City’s passage of the Sharkey-Brown-Isaacs Law, which went into effect 10 years before the federal law. Known as a central achievement of the Civil Rights Movement, the law was the nation’s first Fair Housing Law that extended protection against discrimination within private housing.
The Commission expects to reach a wide audience throughout the city, enlightening uninformed residents that discrimination is against the law and should not be tolerated.
“I am amazed and saddened that 43 years after passing the historic Fair Housing Act, individuals are still denied the right to rent an apartment or purchase a home because of their family status, lawful source of income, disability, [sexual orientation, gender, creed, color or national origin],” Gatling said.
Reaching out to the many diverse immigrant populations throughout the city, the Human Rights Commission has been working with libraries to spread the message about both Fair Housing Laws as well as other protections granted to them under the Human Rights Law.
In an attempt to educate the area’s growing Asian immigrant population about the rights of American citizens, the Flushing Library has incorporated the Human Rights Law and both the Federal and City Fair Housing Laws into its English for Speakers of Other Languages program.
Gary Beharry, manager of the Library Literacy Assistant Center, has witnessed hundreds walk through the library’s entrance seeking to reap the benefits of the library’s ESOL program each year.
The popular program not only teaches participants English, but it also gives them access to citizenship and employment workshops that Beharry said can forever engrain participants into their community.
Donna Ciampa-Lauria, director of the Flushing library branch, has witnessed the expansion of the library’s services.
Since the branch’s facility expanded in 1998, it has become home to the Adult Learning Center and the International Resource Center.
Both centers have provided the branch with the ability to provide Flushing’s immigrant population with the services and educational tools necessary for integration.
“Since we began implementing English language services and citizenship workshops, the library has helped many individuals who suffered from discrimination due to their lack of English,” Ciampa-Lauria said. “The library has become an important place for them to come and get the education they need to gain access to government aid and grasp the ability to become a productive citizen.”
For more information about the commission’s campaign and the curriculums offered at the library go to nyc.gov/cchr.
Reach Reporter Jason Banrey at email@example.com or (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128.