WRO Alleges Rockland County Apartment Complex Discriminated Against People with Mental Disabilities

Real Estate In-Depth | March 2020

WHITE PLAINS—Non-profit fair housing agency Westchester Residential Opportunities, Inc. reported on March 9 it had filed suit against the ownership and manager of the 370-unit Tor View Village Apartments in Garnerville for alleged violations of federal, state and county fair housing laws.

WRO charges in its litigation that individuals with mental disabilities were the subject of discrimination at Tor View Village The charges were based on a multi-year testing investigation conducted by White Plains-based WRO.

During the investigation, WRO’s testers, who posed as prospective tenants, were informed by Tor View’s agents that their emotional support animal 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, WRO states.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in White Plains and claims that the actions of the property ownership and management violated the Fair Housing Act, the New York State Human Rights Law and the Rockland County Fair Housing Law.

Berk-Cohen Associates owns and operates the 370-unit complex. Manhattan Management Company of Brooklyn is the management company for that complex. The ownership and management firm could not be reached for comment at press time.

In 2010, Tor View reached a settlement regarding allegations by the U.S. Department of Justice and Loeb House, a Pearl River-based 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. The federal government alleged that Tor View’s practices illegally restricted the right of individuals with mental illness to choose where to live.

In the settlement, Tor View denied it had violated the Fair Housing Act.

WRO states that 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.

WRO Executive Director Marlene Zarfes said of the litigation filed against Tor View, “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.”