NEW YORK - Shocking reports of widespread discrimination on Long Island, New York are to be investigated by the state.
New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has directed the Division of Human Rights, the Division of Homes and Community Renewal and Department of State to launch a joint investigation into the reports which largely involve the activities of real estate agents on Long Island.
Cuomo's action comes just four days after Newsday reported the results of a 3-year undercover investigation into housing discrimination on Long Island. The investigative team Ann Choi, Bill Dedman, Keith Herbert and Olivia Winslow, with editing by Arthur Browne, thoroughly researched the story over the past 3 years. The story was published by Newsday on Sunday.
"As one of the most segregated suburbs in America, Long Island is crisscrossed by racial barriers. Some, like the Meadowbrook, are visible. Some are the invisible product of historical forces including zoning regulations, mortgage redlining, the boundaries of 124 school districts, housing prices, and racial steering and blockbusting - a tactic used by real estate agents to drive up sales, and commissions, by inducing blacks to move into a white neighborhood and then warning whites that property values were about to plummet," Newsday reported.
For three years, Newsday says it investigated real estate practices on Long Island using a testing system in which whites and minorities, acting as home seekers, were paired to gauge how real estate agents treated them. The probe found that white testers were shown neighborhoods with higher proportions of white residents than black testers were, while the black testers were shown homes in more integrated neighborhoods. It also showed that certain minority areas were largely overlooked for everyone.
Half of Long Island's black population lives in just eleven of the Island's 291 communities, and 90 percent lives in just 62 of them, according to 2017 census estimates.
The concentrated housing pattern ranks the Island near the top nationally in statistical analyses of segregation, the Newsday report said.
In addition to ordering the investigation into the Newsday findings, the New York governor has also announced several additional resources to combat housing discrimination across the state. These initiatives include: launching a comprehensive social media campaign and housing discrimination hotline to raise awareness and give individuals a dedicated contact point to file complaints; and new Department of State regulations to mandate enhanced real estate professional disclosures and info sharing on Fair Housing to prospective home buyers and renters.
"New York State does not tolerate discrimination of any kind, especially when it comes to an individual's right to safe, affordable housing," Cuomo said Thursday. "While we have already made significant strides, new reports about alleged housing discrimination across Long Island are deeply disconcerting and require immediate action. As such, I am directing State agencies to commence an investigation into discriminatory real estate practices on Long Island. In addition, State agencies will release new regulations, protocols and other information to further protect renters and homeowners against unlawful and discriminatory treatment. These initiatives are critical to continuing our efforts to create a truly accessible and inclusive New York State."
The governor's initiatives include:
Joint Division of Human Rights, Division of Homes and Community Renewal and Department of State Investigation
The Division of Human Rights, which enforces New York State anti-discrimination laws, the Division of Homes and Community Renewal, which builds, preserves and protects affordable housing, and the Department of State, which issues licenses to real estate professionals, will investigate the allegations from the Newsday reporting that real estate agents unlawfully steered clients towards certain neighborhoods and engaged in other discriminatory conduct.
Social Media Awareness Campaign and Hotline
The Department of State and the Divisions of Human Rights and Homes and Community Renewal will launch a public education campaign designed to educate New Yorkers about their fair housing rights and protections. As part of this campaign, which will include social media messaging, consumer alerts and related initiatives, the Division of Human Rights is launching a new hotline - 844-862-8703 - available starting today where individuals can call with complaints and receive guidance about their fair housing rights.
Department of State Regulations
The Department of State, in consultation with the Division of Human Rights, will issue new regulations that will provide for enhanced disclosures by real estate professionals to ensure that prospective home buyers and renters receive increased information about their rights and protections under New York State law.