2005-12-23 / Community

Realtor Fined For Belle Harbor Racial Steering

By Howard Schwach

Without admitting guilt, a local realtor has paid a $18,000 fine to the New York City Commission on Human Rights to settle a claim that one of the firm’s associate brokers steered minorities looking for homes away from Belle Harbor and Neponsit to homes in Arverne and Far Rockaway.

According to commission records, a white investigator who worked for the commission came to West End Realty on Beach 116 Street on March 27, 2003 and inquired about purchasing a three-bedroom home in the west end communities. He met with Jane Bernard, then a new associate broker with the firm who has since retired and has reportedly moved to Florida.

The unidentified investigator was told by Bernard that such a house was available on a beach block for $675,000.

On April 1, two black investigators posing as husband and wife came to West End Realty and met with Bernard. The inquired about purchasing a three-bedroom home in the $600,000 to $700,000 price range. Bernard reportedly took contact information for the couple and told them that she would research the request and get back to them.

According to the complaint, Bernard telephoned one of the investigators and told her that she had nothing available at the time, but would contact her if something came up. Later, on April 9, Bernard called again and told the investigator that the only homes she had in the area were priced at $1.2 and $1.8 million.

On a subsequent call, Bernard reportedly reiterated that information, adding that, while there were no homes in Belle Harbor and Neponsit at that price, there were homes and condos further east on the peninsula that they might be interested in and would fall into their price range.

On April 11, the white investigator returned a call to Bernard and was informed that there were two three-bedroom homes in the area at the price they requested.

On April 18, a different pair of black investigators spoke to Bernard about homes in Belle Harbor and Neponsit. They were told that there were no homes in the area for less than $1.2 million; about $400,000 more than they wanted to spend.

On several other occasions, according to the complaint, Bernard attempted to steer the minority couples to Arverne and Far Rockaway.

The complaint says, “respondents have discriminated against African Americans by denying them equal terms, conditions and privileges of sale of housing accommodations because of their race in violation of Section 8-107.5 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York.

On August 16, 2004, without admitting guilt, the firm’s owner, Barbara Morris and Bernard signed a Conciliation Agreement and paid $18,000 to the commission.

As part of the agreement, West End Realty agreed to post a statement about fair housing laws both on their website, westendre.com, and on their lease screening applications.

Morris declined to comment, citing impending litigation. Bernard was unavailable for comment.

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