Lawsuit accuses Midwood landlord of refusing African-American tenants

Lawsuit accuses Midwood landlord of refusing African-American tenants
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A Brooklyn landlord won’t rent apartments to African-American tenants at a “Jewish building” in Midwood, a new lawsuit claims.

The Fair Housing Justice Center — a nonprofit civil rights organization — filed the suit in Federal Court on July 17, alleging that real estate honcho Zev Pollak systematically refuses to lease apartments to non-white tenants at his 48-unit apartment building at 1411 Avenue N between E. 14th and E. 15th streets.

Census bureau statistics from 2010 shows that the African-American population in that section of the neighborhood accounts for less than 2 percent of the area’s population, according to the center.

The organization claims they ran four sting operations, in which they sent several people — some white, some black, but all with similar socio-economic characteristics — to the apartment posing as prospective renters, and found vastly different results based on their skin color.

The investigations began in September 2016, when the building superintendent Eldina Balic allegedly allowed a white man to tour two vacant apartments and claimed they were available for rent, only to deny any vacancies to an African-American man the following day, according to the lawsuit.

The day after that, Balic allegedly allowed a second white “tester” to tour the same vacant apartments — in addition to providing him with rental applications. On this occasion, Pollak met the supposed renter and encouraged him to apply to the “Jewish building,” which was filled with “good” and “stable” tenants, located in a “quiet and safe neighborhood,” according to court documents.

The three other sting operations outlined in the lawsuit depict similar results. The most recent sting operation came last February, when Pollack allegedly told an African-American man that there was “nothing available” — despite allowing two white operatives for the Justice Center to tour the same vacant apartment before and after that denial, according to the lawsuit.

The Justice Center’s leader said discriminatory practices like the ones Pollak allegedly engaged in are responsible for promoting racial segregation, which continues to infect the borough.

“Residential racial segregation is not, and never has been, a matter of choice. It was created and is now perpetuated by intentional discriminatory housing practices like those documented in our complaint,” said Fred Freiberg, who heads up the Fair Housing Justice Center as executive director. “It is beyond vexing that a real estate broker, licensed by the State of New York, is directly involved in making housing unavailable to people based on race.”

Pollack’s real estate company — Zev Pollak Co LLC — did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Reach reporter Aidan Graham at agraham@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–4577. Follow him at twitter.com/aidangraham95.