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Corcoran Group charged with selling ‘white’ nabes

Locations of Corcoran Group offices (stars above) are less likely to be in “black” neighborhoods, according to the National Fair Housing Alliance.
Courtesy of National Fair Housing Alliance

A Manhattan-based real-estate giant, the Corcoran Group, has come under the scrutiny of federally backed agents who charge that the firm steered white home-buyers in Brooklyn to white neighborhoods and discriminated against blacks.

In a report released Tuesday, a coalition of 220 fair housing organizations charged Corcoran with ignoring black clients, offering more detailed financial options and incentives to white home-seekers and directing these white clients to white neighborhoods.

A “gentrification map” is a key piece of evidence in the National Fair Housing Alliance’s federal discrimination complaint filed this week with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“This racial steering tactic is reminiscent of discriminatory conduct from the 1970s,” said Shanna Smith, president of NFHA. “Then, real-estate agents would [trigger] white flight by showing … where an African-American family had bought a house. The twist here is that the agent used a map to tell whites where they should [move] to.”

The map was uncovered in a sting operation at Corcoran’s Brooklyn Heights office on Montague Street.

Four white investigators posing as yuppie homebuyers were flashed the doctored street map — complete with hand-drawn boxes and red arrows identifying neighborhoods considered to be “changing” for the better as well as established enclaves of young professionals.

A Corcoran Group employee directed the undercover agents to Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights and majority-black Prospect Heights, which fell in to the category of “changing.”

Four black investigators, posing as buppies, weren’t shown the map.

Corcoran became the subject of the NFHA investigation after HUD found evidence of fair housing violations in 2000. HUD asked NFHA to investigate further.

The city’s largest residential real estate agency, Corcoran is synonymous in Brooklyn with gentrification. The group last made headlines earlier this year when it sold a three-story building in Red Hook for a then-unheard-of price of $1.075 million.

One day after NFHA released its charges, a pocket guide to fair housing sat on the front desk of Corcoran’s Montague Street office, as well on a front table at the group’s Seventh Avenue office.

In a statement, the company said it condemned the conduct alleged by NFHA and would conduct an internal review of the individual agents involved.

The discrimination described by the housing coalition mirrored tactics discovered in Atlanta and Chicago, other cities that are experiencing a wave of white gentrification.

“What we see is a pattern that forces us to ask if block-by block gentrification is happening by choice or because blacks and Latinos aren’t given the choice to move into certain areas,” Smith said.

Seventeen of Brooklyn’s 37 residential ZIP codes are over 50 percent white. Thirteen ZIP codes are majority black — but the Corcoran neighborhood map highlighted only those situated close to white neighborhoods.

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