The Village of Mastic Beach has agreed to pay six African-American residents and two landlords a total of $387,500 following allegations of housing discrimination violations and forcing renters from their homes.
The plaintiffs are to split the settlement amount equally, getting about $48,000 each.
The settlement reached Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Central Islip puts an end to a more than 2-year-old federal lawsuit against the village and its former administrator, Tim Brojer, for allegedly evicting low-income black renters. Brojer has since been hired as the village administrator in Northport.
“This settlement sends a strong message to municipalities on Long Island and across the country that attempts to use code enforcement to push people of color out of their communities will not be tolerated,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement.
The organization, based in Washington, D.C., represented the tenants and landlords in the case after being contacted by the Long Island Housing Services, also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which had conducted its own investigation.
“Communities must think twice before throwing residents out of their homes and into the street,” Clarke said.
Mastic Beach has 1,234 black or African-American residents, representing 9.5 percent of the village population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census data.
Mastic Beach Mayor Robert Miller said he pushed for the settlement.
“It was my idea, absolutely,” he said.
Miller said the village has a $1 million insurance policy with a $5,000 deductible, so village taxpayers won’t be affected by the settlement.
The lawsuit, filed in February 2015, alleged Brojer and other village officials evicted several African-American tenants who received housing subsidies, citing minor housing code violations without providing legal notice or an opportunity to be heard before eviction.
Brojer was not at Northport Village Hall Thursday and could not be reached for comment. Northport Mayor George Doll wasn’t in the office and didn’t return phone calls.
Former Mastic Beach resident Cratina Clark, 33, said village officials went to her Commack Road home in May 2013 and told her to leave immediately despite not inspecting the home that day. Attorneys in the case said Clark’s house passed a code enforcement inspection four months earlier.
“They told me the house was being condemned and to leave right away because the roof was partially collapsed, but the roof wasn’t partially collapsed,” Clark said Thursday, adding Brojer had previously tried to persuade her landlord not to rent to her. She now lives in Coram.
The lawsuit claimed village officials routinely ordered tenants to walk away from their homes and belongings with only a few hours’ notice and that landlords weren’t allowed to rent to black people.
“We feel it was a fair settlement for our clients,” Joe Rich, co-director of the Lawyers’ Committee Fair Housing & Community Development Project, said in telephone interview.
He said Mastic Beach, a cash-strapped village in the process of dissolving back to Brookhaven Town, will pay the six tenants and two landlord their settlement money in the next month.
“It’s not in the settlement agreement, but that’s the expectation. I think the checks have already been cut,” Rich said.