Sunset landlords sued for discriminating against Latino, minority tenants

Cracking down on discrimination on immigrant tenants in Sunset Park.

The Legal Aid Society, a not-for-profit legal services organization that advocates for low-income individuals and families across a variety of civil, criminal, and juvenile rights matters, has filed a class action lawsuit against Little City Realty LLC and Little Boy Realty LLC.

The lawsuit, announced on Wednesday, January 24, claims that the two companies, operated by landlords Adel and Lina Eskander, discriminated against Latino tenants at two buildings in Sunset Park, 601 40th Street and 614 40th Street.

The suit alleges that the Eskanders used intimidation and discriminatory practices, along with displacement, for years. The Legal Aid Society also claims the couple fraudulently reduced the local stock of affordable units.

According to the lawsuit, Abel Eskander allegedly said, “I don’t like having Latinos, blacks or Chinese here because they’re sedentary. They never move. I need people to move.”

Legal Aid alleges that the Eskanders’ company was sued in 2003 by Legal Services of New York for demanding that tenants provide immigration documentation upon renewing their leases.

Subsequently, Legal Aid alleged, the landlords also made, or threatening to make, frivolous complaints to city agencies, including the NYPD and the Administration for Children’s Services.

Supervising Attorney of the Tenant Rights Coalition at the Legal Aid Society Sunny Noh contended that the injustice has been ongoing for years.

“For decades, the Eskanders have bullied rent-regulated immigrant tenants to vacate their homes and refused to make much-needed repairs to bolster their bottom line,” she said. “Their unchecked reign of terror on vulnerable Brooklynites stops today. Years of unconscionable, malevolent and illegal behavior will catch up with them and they will soon reap what they’ve sown in federal court.”

Legal Aid also claims than 50 percent of the apartments in the two buildings identified in the lawsuit have been fraudulently deregulated by management from 2007 to 2009.

Tactics allegedly also include baseless eviction proceedings against Latino tenants, subjecting residents to derogatory and offensive statements, and demanding that tenants provide immigration documentation upon renewing their leases.

“I’m proud to support the Legal Aid Society’s work for Sunset Park residents who are standing up for their rights with a class action lawsuit,” said Councilmember Carlos Menchaca via Facebook. “The Eskanders and their like have flouted the law and forced people from their homes for far too long. Thanks to new laws created by the City Council and signed into law by Mayor de Blasio last year, tenants have new, stronger protections against harassment and displacement.”

According to a press release from Legal Aid, the litigation “seeks declaratory, injunctive and equitable relief, namely enjoining the Eskanders from further discrimination and harassment of Latino tenants and recognizing the rent-stabilized rights of all tenants; as well as damages.”

“Our affordable housing crisis is accelerated when rent-stabilized apartments are lost through unethical and unlawful landlord tactics,” stressed Menchaca. “’Eviction by construction, withholding heat and hot water, failure to make basic repairs and tenant bullying must stop. The landlords’ unscrupulous behavior flies in the face of city, state and federal laws including the New York City Human Rights Law, the New York City Housing Maintenance Code, the Rent Stabilization Law and Code, and the federal Fair Housing Act.”

The lawsuit was filed in conjunction with Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP serving as pro bono counsel.

At the time of press,  Little City Realty LLC and Little Boy Realty LLC have not provided a comment.

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