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AG: Yaphank German-American group settles housing discrimination case

An undated photo shows people giving the Nazi

An undated photo shows people giving the Nazi salute in Siegfried Park in Yaphank. A German-American group that owns the land, used in the 1930s by supporters of Adolf Hitler, has agreed to stop discriminating against people based on race or national origin, the state attorney general said on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Photo Credit: UPI

A German-American group in Yaphank that owns land used in the 1930s by supporters of Adolf Hitler has agreed to stop discriminating against potential residents based on race or national origin, the state attorney general said Wednesday.

The German-American Settlement League also agreed to replace its president and treasurer by June 2, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said.

The new officers cannot be relatives of current President Robert Kessler and treasurer Jeanette Cooper, a spokeswoman for the attorney general said.

The nonprofit league owns the land where 50 private homes now sit. League covenants had restricted how those homes could be advertised for sale, the attorney general said.

In a statement, Schneiderman said the league had historically made it difficult for nonwhite, non-Germans to buy homes or gain membership in league under its policies.

The league’s “discriminatory practices were a remnant of a disgraceful past that has no place in New York or anywhere,” Schneiderman said.

To demonstrate it is complying with the agreement, the league will also have to report regularly to the attorney general’s office.

League officials and their attorney could not be reached immediately for comment.

Newsday reported last year that a Yaphank couple, Philip Kneer and Patricia Flynn-Kneer, settled a 2015 federal lawsuit claiming the league’s discriminatory covenants prevented them from selling their home.

The league agreed to pay them a total of $175,000 for damages and attorney fees, according to court papers.

The league’s bylaws required the Kneers to advertise the house through printed materials circulated only to league members, according to the lawsuit.

The Yaphank community was founded as a summer camp during the 1930s by Hitler adherents to support the German Nazi Party several years before the outbreak of World War II.

Some of the streets in the community, also known as Siegfried Park, were named for Hitler and other German leaders such as Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Goering. The street names were changed after the war.

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