Join WRO April 21st for our 2021 Fair Housing Month Symposium
Advancing Fairer Housing: Policy and Other Initiatives
Join WRO April 21st for our 2021 Fair Housing Month Symposium
Date: Wednesday, April 21st, 10:00am to 12:30pm
Place: Zoom Webinar (registration required)
10:00 Welcoming Remarks from Marlene Zarfes, WRO
10:10-10:45 Panel discussion on Right to Counsel
Moderated by Barbara Finkelstein, Former CEO, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley
Panelists: Malika Conner | Jason Mays | Neil Steinkamp
10:50-11:25 Panel discussion on Accessory Dwelling Units
Moderated by Joan Arnold, Executive Director, Allied Community Enterprises
Panelists: Sen. Peter Harckham | Casey Berkovitz | Marcel Negret
11:30-12:30 Attorney CLE Program: Introduction to Fair Housing Law
Instructors: Diane Houk & Emma Freeman
Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel
CLE certification provided by the Westchester County Bar Association.
This free symposium is made possible by grant support from the US Department of HUD and Enterprise Community Partners and generous donations from individuals like you.
Joan Arnold is a community development leader skilled in stakeholder engagement, negotiation, and project management. Mrs. Arnold also is a visionary of affordable housing development. Since 2012 she has led Allied Community Enterprise as Executive Director. She launched this new 501(c)3 organization and was responsible for recruiting board members, creating mission statements with board buy-in, branding, and development narrative for the website other communications. She captained grant initiatives that resulted in over $1 million from a state, community foundation and national community development corporations; she managed grants from inception to execution and implementation. Mrs. Arnold worked with Westchester County and municipalities to streamline the public approval process through the HOMES for WESTCHESTER initiative. She created and ran ACE’s Septic Solutions initiative.
For almost twenty years, Mrs. Arnold was the executive director and co-founder of A-HOME. She successfully led and expanded the nonprofit housing organization, developing and managing affordable housing for elderly, disabled, and single-parent families in traditionally hard-to-develop communities in Westchester County, New York. She is regarded as a significant player in affordable housing in Westchester. Because of the hard-to-develop areas in which Mrs. Arnold works, she looks beyond conventional models to create housing: shared housing, suburban Single Room Occupancy, and yes, accessory apartments, ADUs. Arnold believes that accessory dwelling units offer communities low hanging fruit to add to their housing supply, be it affordable housing or Affordable Housing.
Mrs. Arnold also ran her own company, Joan Arnold & Company, Inc., where she provided community relations and grant writing expertise to businesses, local governments, nonprofit and educational organizations. She also has corporate experience working with Pepsi-Cola as Community Relations Manager. Currently serving on the President’s Council of Northern Westchester Hospital, part of the Northwell Health system. She was recently on the community board of the Community Center in Katonah, she is also the chair of Westchester Non-Profit Housing Coalition, and New York Coalition of ADUs member, and is an alumnus of Leadership Westchester. Mrs. Arnold has a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters of Education from Columbia University, New York, NY.
Casey Berkovitz is a senior associate at The Century Foundation, a think tank based in New York City, where he is on the communications team and works on housing policy. Outside of TCF, Casey is on the board of Open New York, a pro-housing activist group; was a founding organizer of a tenant union in Brooklyn; and has coordinated the statewide coalition working to legalize accessory dwelling units (ADUs) across New York. Prior to The Century Foundation, Casey worked in communications, advocacy, and local political organizing in New York and California. He is a native of Los Angeles and holds a B.A. in History and Media Studies from UC Berkeley.
Malika is an experienced community organizer, coalition builder, campaign strategist, and social worker. She has worked in the social justice movement for over nine years and has extensive experience building coalitions and campaigns from the ground up.
Malika is the Director of Organizing for the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition. She previously served as Senior Organizer at ANHD, where she ran a workshop series for tenant organizers and led CATHnyc, a city-wide coalition that is fighting against the harassment and displacement of low-income tenants. Her previous work has focused on creating good jobs for low-income communities of color in the transportation and technology sectors, building the capacity of tenants’ rights organizations through leadership development and training, and facilitating support groups and Know Your Rights workshops for survivors of domestic violence.
Malika holds a bachelor’s degree in Development Sociology from Cornell University and a master’s degree from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, where she majored in Community Organizing, Planning, and Development and minored in Public Policy.
Barbara Finkelstein, Esq. retired as CEO of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (LSHV) in January 2021, where she oversaw every aspect of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (LSHV), the largest provider of free civil legal services to poor and low-income individuals in Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan and Ulster Counties.
During her 25 year tenure Ms. Finkelstein grew LSHV from a $2 million, two county program to a seven county, $21 million organization with a 160 person staff and nine offices. She was the first woman to lead the organization and under her leadership LSHV created domestic violence, family law, children’s advocacy, veterans, foreclosure, homelessness prevention and LGBTQ units. She expanded free civil legal service to hundreds of thousands of needy individuals, and established LSHV as a nationally known organization capable of continually enhancing services to marginalized communities while expanding infrastructure, technology and anti racism efforts on behalf of the organization.
Since retirement Ms. Finkelstein has become a senior advisor to the New York State Permanent Commission on Access to Justice where she leads a statewide housing group, maintains her role as co-chair of the Westchester Right to Counsel Coalition, continues as a member of Administrative Judge Kathie Davidson’s local access to justice initiative, and remains active in the New York State Bar Association’s Legal Aid Committee.
Ms. Finkelstein received her J.D. from Rutgers School of Law – Newark, and her B.A. from Hunter College of the City University of New York.
EMERY CELLI BRINCKERHOFF ABADY WARD & MAAZEL LLP
Emma Freeman is an experienced litigator whose broad practice encompasses civil rights, class action, and commercial matters in federal and state court as well as various state and federal agencies. Ms. Freeman has represented individuals and organizations in cases involving housing and employment discrimination, #MeToo and sexual assault, misconduct and excessive force by police and correctional officers, the abuse and wrongful death of children and persons with disabilities, wrongful convictions, First Amendment religious free exercise, and other constitutional questions at both the trial and appellate level. Her tailored, client-focused approach includes pre-suit investigation and negotiation as well as litigation aimed at obtaining both damages and injunctive relief from discriminatory or unlawful policies. Ms. Freeman’s commercial practice involves real estate and contract disputes, federal government loan recovery, the New York Not-For-Profit Corporation Law and Religious Corporations Law, Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower retaliation, defamation suits, and arbitrations.
Prior to joining the Firm in 2017, Ms. Freeman clerked for the Hon. Raymond J. Lohier, Jr. of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the Hon. Patti B. Saris of the District of Massachusetts, and the Hon. Barbara A. Lenk of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. She previously worked with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Public Policy Litigation and Law Department, the ACLU of Massachusetts, and a nationally-recognized police misconduct firm in Boston, Massachusetts.
Ms. Freeman received her B.A. from Yale University and graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School, where she served as an editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, as Co-President of the Harvard Society for the Separation of Church and State, and as Vice-President of the Board of Student Advisers. Ms. Freeman’s team won the Ames Moot Court Competition, and she received the George S. Leisure Award for Best Oralist.
New York State Senator
Pete Harckham was elected to the New York State Senate in November of 2018. Prior to his election, Pete has had a distinguished career in public service, most recently having served in the Administration of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo from 2015-2018. In 2015 he was appointed by the Governor as the Assistant Director of the Office of Community Renewal, responsible for the roll out and implementation of a special allotment of $4.3M in CDBG funding for Westchester municipalities. For the past two years Pete served as the Director of Intergovernmental affairs for the $3.9B Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge project.
Prior to his service to New York State, Pete served on the Westchester County Board of Legislators from 2008 – 2015. Pete was first elected in November 2007 representing the 2nd Legislative District, comprising all of northeast Westchester. He was a leading voice for maintaining vital services; protecting our fragile drinking water supplies the environment; and investing in our families.
In 2010, Pete was selected by his colleagues to serve as Democratic Majority Leader of the Board of Legislators. He was selected because of his progressive values, work ethic, organizational skills and for being a bipartisan consensus builder willing to reach out and work across party lines to get things done. He served as Majority Leader through 2013, honoring his pledge to serve only two terms.
During his tenure on the Board, Pete understood that it is more cost effective to keep people off of expensive social services so he has been a fierce defender of investments that assist the working poor to keep working and to help families on the cusp to stay in their homes. He also passed legislation creating a Westchester County Local Development Corporation to enable non profits to obtain low interest financing to expand facilities and create jobs.
Pete focused extensive energy into protecting our fragile drinking water supplies. He coauthored ground-breaking legislation to ban the waste from hydrofracking from being treated in any wastewater facility in Westchester and prohibits the brine from hydrofracking from being used on any road in Westchester for deicing or to control dust.
He also got NYC DEP to agree to a pilot project to test alternative septic technologies in the watershed. Further, he successfully led critical negotiations between the county, municipalities, New York State and New York City regarding formulation and implementation of new MS4 septic requirements that has saved municipalities hundreds of thousands of dollars. He also successfully led the effort to release over $20M of NYC DEP funds to address water quality challenges in northern Westchester. He helped to pass groundbreaking phosphorus reduction legislation to further protect our drinking water.
He was at the center of legislative efforts to improve water and air quality, advance human rights and fair housing law as well as to protect young people from alcohol and drug abuse. He was recognized countywide as a leading advocate for the creation of affordable housing for seniors, emergency first-responders and the working poor.
Before being elected to the BOL, Pete served as President of the Board of A-HOME (2004 to 2007), a not-for-profit housing corporation that builds affordable housing in northern Westchester. From 1992 to 2005, Pete served as Vice Chair of the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, a San Francisco-based foundation that supports the sustainable management of natural resources, the reduction of harmful toxins from the environment, and promotes arts and environmental education to underserved communities.
Pete has been a communications professional since 1983 when he started his career on Madison Avenue and worked for ten years for major advertising agencies. From 2002 – 2008 he was President of Harckham Media Group, LLC, a strategic partnership of advertising, communications and production professionals. He also founded K&E Farms, a small horse farm in Katonah, NY, where he donated conservation easements from the farm to the Westchester Land Trust. He also converted his prior residence and farm to solar power.
In addition to his professional work, Pete served on the President’s Council for the Northern Westchester Hospital, was a board member for the United Way of Westchester and Putnam, the Junior League of Northern Westchester Community Advisory Council, the Livable Communities Council and for many years was a girls soccer coach for the Lewisboro Soccer Club.
Pete is a lifelong resident of the Hudson Valley, having grown up in Rockland County. He moved to Katonah in Westchester in 1991 and now lives in South Salem. He has two adult daughters, Emma and Kate, who both attended the Katonah-Lewisboro public schools.
Diane L. Houk
EMERY CELLI BRINCKERHOFF ABADY WARD & MAAZEL LLP
Diane L. Houk joined the firm in 2009. Her practice focuses on housing discrimination matters. Prior to joining the firm, Diane co-founded the New York City-based Fair Housing Justice Center in 2004 and served as its first Executive Director until 2009.
Ms. Houk previously worked at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in the Housing & Civil Enforcement Section from 1991 to 2004. During her tenure as a Senior Trial Attorney, Ms. Houk served as lead counsel in more than thirty housing discrimination cases filed by the United States in federal courts throughout the country. Her docket included systemic “pattern and practice” cases, as well as individual complaints referred by HUD, involving allegations of race, national origin, familial status, sex, and disability discrimination. These included rental discrimination cases based on “testing” investigations and local land use cases, such as United States v. Yonkers, NY; United States v. Parma, OH; United States v. City of Jacksonville, FL; and United States v. Pooler, GA.
Ms. Houk created and implemented the Schools and Housing Opportunity Initiative in 1999, a one-year pilot project between the Division’s Educational Opportunities and Housing Sections to assist jurisdictions in promoting voluntary residential integration opportunities that would decrease racial isolation in schools. In 2000, Ms. Houk was named Special Litigation Counsel by the Division. In that role, she oversaw the development and litigation of race, national origin, and religious discrimination cases involving land use and zoning, redevelopment plans, building and occupancy codes, and affordable housing programs.
Prior to joining the Department of Justice, Ms. Houk was in private practice in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for seven years litigating civil rights cases alleging race, national origin, disability, sexual harassment, and sexual orientation discrimination in housing and employment. She served as General Counsel to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council and handled numerous cases utilizing evidence obtained from “fair housing testing.”
Ms. Houk co-taught the Housing Discrimination Seminar at Columbia Law School from 2005 to 2014 and the Civil Rights Tutorial for Stanford University’s Stanford in Washington Program for the prior six years.
Director of Litigation for the Hudson Valley Justice Center
Jason Mays, Esq., has been Hudson Valley Justice Center’s Director of Litigation for nearly two and half years. He has extensive experience in a wide variety of practice areas, including foreclosure, landlord-tenant, family law, social security disability, and various administrative venues. Jason has experience at the trial and appellate level, and in both state and federal courts. Jason is the acting Co-Chair of the Right to Counsel Coalition and is a key figure in fighting to bring the right to counsel in housing matters to Westchester County.
Senior Planner, Regional Plan Association
Marcel combines design thinking with data analysis capabilities to inform long term planning efforts. He specializes in urban and environmental policy, land use, and geospatial research. Marcel provides technical expertise and research capabilities to RPA’s planning and advocacy efforts, focusing on the intersections between housing, social characteristics, and infrastructure. He is a visiting assistant professor at Pratt Institute’s Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment. Prior to joining RPA, he was Project Manager at the Municipal Art Society of New York.
Transformative Change Consulting
Neil Steinkamp is a Managing Director at Stout and a well-recognized expert and consultant on a range of strategic, corporate, and financial issues for businesses, non-profit organizations, state and local government agencies, and com m unity leaders and their advisors. Mr. Steinkamp has extensive experience developing strategic plans, impact analyses, data evaluation methods, and organizational culture. Mr. Steinkamp has also provided independent expert testimony in a variety of venues including trials and arbitration on matters involving complex commercial disputes and investigations. He has worked on hundreds of matters involving a wide range of industries and business and social issues.
His work often includes assessments of data reporting, data collection processes, the interpretation or understanding of structured and unstructured data, the review of documents and databases, the development of iterative process improvement strategies, and the creation of data monitoring platforms to facilitate sustained incremental change toward a particular outcome. Mr. Steinkamp has premier experience with housing-related issues, including eviction and public housing. Stout has conducted research and analyses of eviction right to counsel and related fiscal impacts in New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Detroit, Cleveland, and Baltimore. Stout’s publicly available reports for New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore have contributed to landmark legislation passing in those jurisdictions. In mid-2020, Mr. Steinkamp developed innovative analyses of tenant household instability caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and estimates of how that instability could result in an unprecedented number of evictions in states throughout the country. Stout’s research and analyses have been cited in local and national publications, including, but not limited to, The New Y Times, The Washington Post, CNBC, Reuters, Forbes, Politico, and Bloomberg, and w referenced in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention September 4, 2020 Order enacting a nationwide eviction moratorium.
Mr. Steinkamp also currently serves as the court-appointed Independent Data Analyst in Baez v. New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) involving NYCHA’s compliance with the timely remediation of mold and leak conditions.
Mr. Steinkamp has been engaged as an independent expert or consultant on numerous matters including financial analyses related to eviction prevention subsidies, analyses of court docket data for eviction cases in several cities throughout the country, data monitoring and data assessments related to public benefits, and analyses of reasonable workloads for attorneys. Mr. Steinkamp has authored numerous impact assessment studies using large complex data sets and data visualization tools for his for-profit and nonprofit clients. Clients seek Mr. Steinkamp’s unique skillset which combines expertise in strategy, transformative change, finance, complex datasets and systems, and complex procedural and logistical challenges.
Marlene was previously WRO’s Deputy Executive Director, responsible for all WRO programs including Fair Housing, First Time Home Buying, Mortgage Default Protection, Senior Housing, Independent Living and Eviction Prevention. Marlene joined WRO in 2010 as Fair Housing Director, supervising federal and local grants to conduct fair housing and fair lending testing, and education and outreach. In addition to supervising, Marlene is a frequent speaker on behalf of WRO at public events. Prior to joining WRO, she practiced corporate law, most recently with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP in New York City, where she placed substantial priority on pro bono matters. Marlene has a BA from University of Pennsylvania and a JD from Boston University School of Law.
To learn more about the history of residential racial segregation, please check out our video.
Where You Live Is Your Choice
Fair housing laws protect you when you are looking for a place to live and while you are living in your house, co-op, condo, or apartment. WRO works to protect your rights if you live, or are looking for a place to live, in Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess or Ulster counties in New York.
Know Your Fair Housing Rights
In New York State, you are protected against housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex or gender, age, disability, marital status, familial status (having children under 18), sexual orientation, identity or expression, source of income or military status. These categories are known as “protected classes.” In Westchester County, it is also unlawful to discriminate based on alienage or citizenship; status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual abuse, or stalking; and source of income. Under federal law, people with disabilities have the right to request and receive reasonable accommodations and modifications from their housing provider, so they may fully use and enjoy their homes. In addition, under the Fair Housing Act, new multifamily housing must be designed and constructed in accordance with seven accessibility requirements.
Fair Housing Means…
Fair housing means an equal opportunity to live in the housing that you desire and can afford. Fair housing means that houses, apartments, co-ops, and condos must be made available under the same terms and conditions for all financially qualified applicants. Everyone is entitled to seek housing in every neighborhood, and similar information must be provided to all home seekers. Fair housing and fair lending laws apply to the actions of all people involved in real estate transactions. Real estate brokers and agents, property managers, mortgage lenders, insurers, advertisers, appraisers, and inspectors are required to treat all consumers equally. If you have been, or believe you have been, the victim of unlawful housing discrimination, please contact our fair housing department at 914-428-4507 for assistance.
What WRO Does
WRO responds to complaints of housing discrimination by investigating, negotiating, mediating, and, when necessary, litigating with the aid of an attorney. WRO often conducts investigations by testing to uncover discrimination that may otherwise go undetected. Complaints may come from home seekers, tenants, real estate professionals, or advocates, particularly those working with immigrant communities and people with disabilities. If a formal complaint seems necessary, WRO can help those impacted by housing discrimination seek redress in an appropriate forum, including local human rights commissions, the New York State Division of Human Rights, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or state or federal court.
Fair housing education for the general public is offered at various workshops, home buying expos, and other countywide events. Workshops are developed to educate renters about their rights and responsibilities, to teach basic financial literacy and to aid prospective home buyers in their housing search. We also educate consumers about predatory lending practices and current scams to be avoided. Any group interested in hosting a workshop or having a training session tailored to their members’ particular needs should contact the Fair Housing Department at 914-428-4507.
Trains Housing Professionals, Officials, and Boards
We are also available to train real estate agents, advocates, municipal officials, planners, other housing professionals, co-op boards, and condominium associations on their fair housing obligations as well as the rights of their clients and residents. Seminars are held for staff at nonprofit agencies throughout Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam counties. We also create programs on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) for municipal officials and the public about fair housing responsibilities under federal law. Our agency offers consultation on fair housing issues. Feel free to call us at 914-428-4507 with specific questions or to arrange a workshop for your group.