March 9, 2020 —
Westchester Residential Opportunities Alleges Housing Discrimination at Tor View Village Apartments in Rockland County —
White Plains, NY – Westchester Residential Opportunities, Inc. (WRO), a non-profit fair housing agency, has filed a lawsuit against the owners and manager of Tor View Village Apartments, a 370-unit apartment complex in the Rockland County hamlet of Garnerville. The lawsuit alleges housing discrimination toward people with mental disabilities, based on a multi-year testing investigation conducted by WRO of Tor View’s reasonable accommodation practices.
During the investigation, WRO’s testers (posing as prospective tenants) were informed by Tor View’s agents that their emotional support animal (ESA) would not be accommodated at the property, in four instances and by three distinct agents. In particular, Tor View refused to make exceptions to its breed restrictions and pet fees for testers’ ESAs, which violates the law. Even when made aware that the animal would be providing relief for the prospective tenant’s mental illness, agents refused to accommodate.
This is not the first time Tor View Village has been accused of discriminating against the mental disability community. In 2010, Tor View reached a settlement regarding allegations by the US Department of Justice and a non-profit provider of residential services to individuals with mental disabilities that Tor View had refused to make reasonable accommodations to persons with mental disabilities. Tor View’s practices illegally restrict the right of individuals with mental illness to choose where to live.
Individuals with mental disabilities have a long history of unequal treatment and facing barriers to bare necessities, including housing, schooling and employment. Housing providers reduce housing opportunity through invasive questions, explicit refusals, accommodation denials and other forms of unfair treatment. The inability to find suitable housing is linked to a decline in mental, physical, social and economic well-being. Acknowledging this history, Executive Director Marlene Zarfes of WRO stated: “WRO is bringing this action to seek justice for people with disabilities. People with disabilities, whether mental or physical, are too often overlooked or stigmatized when it comes to housing opportunities. A successful outcome in this case will recognize the lawful rights of people with disabilities and expand housing opportunities for them, as intended by fair housing laws.”
WRO’s attorneys in this matter are Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. The lawsuit has been filed in federal court and claims that the actions of the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act, New York State Human Rights Law and the Rockland County Fair Housing Law.
Defendant Berk-Cohen Associates owns and operates the 370-unit complex. Defendant Manhattan Management Company is the management company for that complex.
The work that provided the basis for this press release was supported by funding provided through a private enforcement grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Founded in 1968, WRO is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to promote equal, affordable, and accessible housing opportunities for all residents in the Lower Hudson Valley region of New York.