2007-01-19 / Community

Local Co-Ops To Fight Council Disclosure Bill

By Howard Schwach

Local cooperatives, including the large Breezy Point co-op at the western tip of the Rockaway peninsula are gearing up to fight a proposed City Council bill that would mandate co-op boards to inform prospective buyers who are turned down of the reason for that denial within five days.

Introduction 119, the "Fair and Prompt Disclosure Law," is now going through the process and City Councilman Joseph Addabbo, one of the sponsors of the bill, says that hearings will soon be held on the controversial bill, which requires a co-op board to provide a detailed explanation for a rejection within a five day period following the rejection.

Craig Gurian, a spokesperson for the Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro New York, one of the organization lobbying for the bill, says that it is necessary because co-op boards often discriminate against prospective buyers and should have to, as a matter of fairness, provide a reason for any denial of an opportunity to buy.

"The failure of co-ops to have to tell people why they were turned down makes it too easy for them to illegally discriminate against people," he says. "Under this law, co-ops will no longer be able to evade responsibility for discrimination by coming up with new reasons after a law suit is filed."

"Introduction 119 in no way limits or changes the legal rights of co-ops [to turn people down]," Gurian told The Wave. "The co-ops will have the same legal rights after the bill is passed as they had previously. All it does is mandate that they provide specific reasons for the denial in a timely manner."

"Even department stores have to tell a consumer why he or she was turned down for credit," he added. "What could be more fair? Steve Greenberg, the president of the sprawling Breezy Point Cooperative, however, does not agree with Gurian's assessment of the impact the bill might have on his association.

"While we have only had one person rejected in the entire history of the co-op, we think that this bill will do nothing but promote litigation against the board," Greenberg said. "We're opposed to its passage and we will certainly hold our elected city council members to task for supporting it."

He says that he has already contacted Addabbo and James Sanders to register his displeasure with the bill and with their support. "There is no reality to this bill," Greenberg adds. "It is being pushed by lobbyists and real estate interests and will only benefit the lawyers." Gurian thinks that the new law will actually stop many lawsuits.

"If people know that the genuine reason for their denial was, for example, a financial one, then they should understand that discrimination did not play a part and they will not sue," he says.

For his part, Addabbo is rethinking his support for the bill.

"Just because my name is on the bill as a supporter, that does not mean that I will support it all the way," he told The Wave on Tuesday. "There are co-ops all over my district, including Breezy Point, who have voiced their concerns. If those concerns turn out to be valid after our oversight hearings are held, then I will move to amend the bill or to withdraw my support."

There is no schedule for those oversight hearings as yet, Addabbo said.

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