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Lawsuits

City cranks up the heat on ICE-threatening landlords

The city has charged a Queens landlord with making immigration threats against foreign-born tenants.

In March, the city’s Human Rights Commission served the landlord a notice of the complaint alleging discrimination after Make the Road NY brought the case to the Commission.

In his response letter to the Commission, the landlord denied the allegations and indicated that he sent a copy of the letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which included tenants’ personal information, in violation of the NYC Human Rights Law’s retaliation protections.

The Commission is now charging the landlord with retaliation against his tenants and filing a complaint against him on behalf of the City.

“Our message is loud and clear: we will hold landlords accountable for discrimination in our city,” said Mayor de Blasio. “We stand with tenants, regardless of their origin, in Queens and across the five boroughs.”

“The Commission will not hesitate to take action against bad actors when they retaliate against New Yorkers who have reported discrimination,” said Assistant Commissioner of the Law Enforcement Bureau at the NYC Commission on Human Rights, Sapna V. Raj.

NISHA AGARWAL

“The NYC Human Rights Law makes it illegal to retaliate against any individual for reporting discrimination, regardless of their immigration status. This repeated harassment and retaliation against immigrant tenants is unlawful and unacceptable in New York City,” said Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

“It is very unfortunate that certain bad actors feel emboldened to follow Washington’s lead in hostility towards immigrants. We are proud of our colleagues at the NYC Commission on Human Rights for taking action, standing with our fellow New Yorkers, and making clear that immigrants’ rights must be respected in our city.”

Senior Staff Attorney at Make the Road New York, Ryan Napoli said that while landlords have been threatening to call ICE on immigrant tenants for years, there has been “a significant increaseˮ in this form of harassment since Trump was elected.

In an effort to further crack down on landlords for discriminating against tenants based on their immigration status, the Commission recently sent a cease and desist letter to Zara Realty for discriminating against immigrant tenants.

Last month, the Commission sent a similar letter to landlord Jaideep Reddy, also in Queens, after it learned he was discriminating against tenants based on their immigration status.

The Commission has heard from these landlords and is exploring further enforcement actions.

The Commission has the authority to fine violators with civil penalties of up to $250,000 for willful and malicious violations of the Law and can award compensatory damages to victims, including emotional distress damages and other benefits.

The Commission can also order training on the NYC Human Rights Law, changes to policies, and other relief such as community service and mediated apologies.

Over the past two years, the Commission has increased enforcement efforts to address housing discrimination based on immigration status and national origin.

It has doubled the overall number of investigations into discrimination based on immigration status and/or national origin, filing 376 claims last year compared to 155 claims in 2013/14. It is currently investigating 291 claims of discrimination based on immigration status .

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