October 10, 2023
White Plains, NY – Today Westchester Residential Opportunities, Inc. (WRO), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization promoting equal, affordable and accessible housing, announced resolution of a housing discrimination lawsuit it brought last year against New Rochelle-based Merrick Platzner, Platzner Management and related individuals and entities, alleging violations of lawful source of income protections in New York State’s and Westchester County’s fair housing laws.
WRO’s fair housing investigators discovered rental advertisements by Platzner with explicitly discriminatory statements, such as “SORRY….NO SECT 8”. When WRO sent its trained undercover testers to inquire with Platzner about renting one of their New Rochelle properties using a Section 8 voucher, Platzner stated “I don’t take Westchester County Section 8” in one instance, and “this building doesn’t take Section 8” in another.
WRO reached its settlement with the Platzner organization concurrently with the resolution of similar allegations brought against the Platzner entities by the New York State Office of the Attorney General.
The terms of the settlements reached with the Platzner organization include customary agreements by Platzner, including:
- payment to WRO of $95,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees,
- internal policy revisions,
- participating in periodic fair housing training, and
- affirmative agreements not to discriminate going forward.
In addition, the Platzner organization made several commitments to WRO and the Attorney General designed to increase equal housing opportunities for voucherholders, including:
- setting aside 20 rental units in “high opportunity” areas for recipients of housing subsidies,
- publicly advertising any available units in buildings they own or manage with a statement confirming that government vouchers are accepted, and
- not charging a voucherholder any broker’s fee, and not charging any excessive application or other fees that would discourage a voucherholder from applying.
WRO’s Executive Director Marlene Zarfes stated: “Open and equal access to housing for holders of Section 8 and other housing vouchers is fundamental to the fair housing rights of voucherholders, and vital to the proper functioning of the Section 8 program.” Zarfes added: “We are especially grateful to Attorney General Letitia James’s office for their strong partnership in helping us reach a resolution in this matter that will not just restore but enhance access to housing opportunities for voucherholders.”
“Every New Yorker, regardless of their income, deserves a place to live,” said Attorney General James. “Denying housing opportunities to low-income New Yorkers simply because they have a housing voucher is not only illegal, it worsens our affordable housing crisis. This agreement will help ensure that renters are treated fairly and will make it clear to brokers and landlords that discrimination will not be tolerated in New York. I want to thank the Housing Rights Initiative and Westchester Residential Opportunities for their help with OAG’s investigation and their ongoing and dedicated work to fight housing discrimination in our communities.”
WRO was represented by Mariann Wang and Daniel Mullkoff of Cuti Hecker Wang LLP. WRO is grateful for their leadership in resolving this matter.
WRO’s investigative and enforcement work in this case was made possible by funding from Enterprise Community Partners under the Eliminating Barriers to Housing in New York program and from New York State Homes and Community Renewal.