Super Accused Of Discrimination
By MEGAN MONTALVO
On February 23, Bianca Jones left her Brooklyn home to visit a Sunnyside apartment in search of a one-bedroom rental.
As she walked towards the 107-unit building, located at 41-41 46th St., she was greeted by the superintendent, who at the time referred to himself as “Mike.”
Upon asking Mike about the available rental, Jones said she was told that there were no units available.
“He didn’t seem rude,” she said. “But, he was definitely short with me.”
Without any indication the superintendent may be lying, Jones left the scene.
The next day, yet another woman went to the same building and met the same superintendent, who this time identified to himself as “Irfan.”
In search of a one-bedroom rental, the woman inquired about availability.
Once asked, the superintendent told the woman there was, in fact, a one-bedroom apartment available for rent immediately and showed her the vacant unit right away.
“I have one apartment ready,” he said. “You look like nice people, that’s why I show you.”
Though both women had visible differences, as Jones is Black and the other woman white, Ifran/Mike was unaware that the pair had one striking attribute in common – they were both “testers” used as a measure to detect housing discrimination.
Hired by The Fair Housing Justice Center, both women recounted their visits with the superintendent for a federal district court complaint filed on Dec. 5 by Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP.
The lawsuit alleges that the building’s owner, NASA Real Estate Corporation, and its superintendent, Ifran Bekdemir, engaged in racial discrimination by lying to three Black testers, claiming that no apartments were available for rent and refusing to show them apartments in the building on three separate occasions, while white testers had been shown an apartment on the same day and been offered a discount on rent.
“Testing is the only investigative tool capable of comparing and documenting how similarly qualified renters of different races are being treated in the housing market,” FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg said. “Individual renters are often unaware that discrimination is occurring.”
According to the 2010 Census, Black households account for fewer than two percent of all rental housing units within an eight-square-block radius of the Sunnyside building, while 18 percent make up renter households in the rest of Queens.
Similar to the pending complaint, which seeks to ensure future compliance with fair housing laws, the FHJC settled a case earlier this year for $225,000 against landlords who allegedly engaged in racial discrimination in apartment buildings located in Brooklyn neighborhoods with a comparable racial composition.
“Regrettably, race discrimination in housing remains one of the rawest forms of racism in this City and the nation,” said Elizabeth Saylor, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs. “We are dedicated to eradicating it.”
As of press time, calls made to the superintendent and the building’s owner had not been returned.
Individuals who encounter illegal housing discrimination are encouraged to call the FHJC at (212) 400-8201.
Reach Reporter Megan Montalvo at (718) 357-7400 Ext. 128 or firstname.lastname@example.org.