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Nassau will launch hotline for housing discrimination complaints

The Nassau County Legislature meets on Monday.

The Nassau County Legislature meets on Monday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau County Legislature on Monday approved legislation launching a telephone hotline for prospective homebuyers to log complaints with the county if they suspect redlining or steering by the real estate industry.

Legis. Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) introduced the measure after a November report in Newsday detailed extensive evidence of widespread separate and unequal treatment of minority potential homeowners on Long Island. The bill passed 17-0. Legis. Josh Lafazan, a Woodbury independent who caucuses with Democrats, and Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont) were absent.

Newsday's Long Island Divided series, a three-year investigation, sent white and minority testers to look for homes to buy in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Newsday found that minority testers, when compared to whites, were treated disparately 40 percent of the time. Black testers experienced unequal treatment 49 percent of the time. The number was 39 for Hispanic testers and 19 for Asian testers.

"We're obligated to do something about it," Drucker said. He added that it was necessary "to educate our residents that there is a remedy for them if they've been aggrieved by this horrible practice."

"We need to stop this type of institutional segregation and racism … that has existed here on Long Island for too long."

Officials said the number for the hotline is not yet established. Also, there will be an informational website, which will have resources about housing discrimination, fair housing laws, and information about how to report complaints.

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said, "I agree that this is only the first step in what will actually have to be done to address the issues that have been raised in Newsday's series."

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran will sign the measure into law.

“Housing discrimination isn’t just wrong, or illegal — it closes doors of opportunity, robbing hardworking families of their shot at the American dream," Curran said in a statement. "We are taking comprehensive, bipartisan, and sustained action to ensure equal access to housing in Nassau County.”

Also Monday, Nassau lawmakers approved a bill requiring cooperative boards to act more swiftly to approve and respond to applications from prospective homebuyers. The bill passed 16-1, with only Legis. Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Neck) voting no.

The measure requires co-op boards to notify a prospective homebuyer within 15 days that an application has been completed correctly or is incomplete. It must reject or approve an application within 45 days.

Nicolello said the bill was necessary so that "co-op boards can't just defeat applications by holding onto [them] interminably."

"What happens is, these deals die," Drucker said. "When you have a co-op board that takes too long a period of time, it affects people's lives. That's what this bill is about, to try to help people get on with their lives."

Birnbaum said she did not think the bill was "in its final form" and said she thought co-op boards should get 60 days to make a decision. 

Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) said she believes the bill will "root out some clandestine approaches to discrimination" and that boards want to "wait out some individuals."

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