IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
TRIPLE H. REALTY, LLC,
HARRY KANTOR, AND COMPLAINT
The United States of America alleges as follows:
NATURE OF ACTION
1. This is a civil action brought by the United States to enforce Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 3601-3619 (the “Fair Housing Act”). It is brought on behalf of Jose and Florentina Resto, Estaban and Gloria Castro, Daimian and Cristina Edwards, Olivia Wilson, Denise Young, and Edilberto Romero (“Complainants”), pursuant to Section 812(o) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o). It is also brought pursuant to Section 814(a) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a).
JURISDICTION & VENUE
2. This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1345, and 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o) and 3614.
3. Venue is proper in this judicial district under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b), in that the events giving rise to this action occurred in, and the subject property is located in, this judicial district.
4. Defendant Triple H. Realty, LLC, owns Cottage Manor Apartments (“Cottage Manor”), consisting of six two-story garden apartment buildings with 104 units. Cottage Manor is located at 113-123 Woehr Avenue, Lakewood, New Jersey. The business office of Triple H. Realty, LLC, is located at 227 Woehr Avenue, Lakewood, New Jersey.
5. Cottage Manor Apartments are “dwellings” within the meaning of 42 U.S.C.
6. Defendant Harry Kantor is employed by Triple H. Realty, LLC, to manage Cottage Manor. At all times relevant to this action, he determined or implemented rental policy for Cottage Manor and supervised Vincent Ortiz, the onsite superintendent.
7. Defendant Vincent Ortiz was employed by Triple H. Realty, LLC, until 2004. He reported to Harry Kantor and handled tenancy matters including rent collection, court appearances, and maintenance at Cottage Manor, among other things.
8. Complainants Jose and Florentina Resto are black, Hispanic and Catholic. They resided at Cottage Manor at 115 Woehr Avenue, Apt. 1K, Lakewood, New Jersey, from 1999 to 2005.
9. Complainants Estaban and Gloria Castro are Hispanic and Protestant. They resided at Cottage Manor at 113 Woehr Avenue, Apt. 1A, Lakewood, New Jersey, from 2004 to 2005.
10. Complainant Daimian Edwards is African-American and Christian, and Complainant Cristina Edwards is Puerto Rican and Christian. They resided at Cottage Manor at 123 Woehr Avenue, Apt. 1A, Lakewood, New Jersey, from 1998 to 2006.
11. Complainant Denise Young is African-American and Baptist. Ms. Young resided at Cottage Manor at 113 Woehr Avenue, Apt. 1D, Lakewood, New Jersey, from 1991 to 2006.
12. Complainant Edilberto Romero is Mexican and Christian. Mr. Romero resided at Cottage Manor at 119 Woehr Avenue, Apt. 1K, Lakewood, New Jersey, from 2003 to 2005.
13. Complainant Olivia Wilson is Cuban and Christian. Ms. Wilson resided at Cottage Manor at 123 Woehr Avenue, Apt. 1D, Lakewood, New Jersey, in 2004.
14. On information and belief, there were no Jewish residents at Cottage Manor in 2002, at the time a Section 8 project-based housing assistance payments contract between Cottage Manor and the Lakewood Housing Authority was terminated.
15. Beginning on or about January 1, 2002, Defendant Kantor began marketing Cottage Manor to the nearby Orthodox Jewish community to fill vacancies.
16. Beginning on or about January 1, 2002, Defendant Kantor offered incoming Jewish tenants lower rents than were paid by African-American and Hispanic tenants for comparable apartments.
17. Defendant Kantor stated to Defendant Ortiz words to the effect that Orthodox Jews do not mix well with other minorities. He instructed Defendant Ortiz to ask African-American and Hispanic families living in buildings 113 and 115 to transfer to other buildings so that Jewish tenants would not have to live among non-Jewish African-American and Hispanic families.
18. Defendant Ortiz informed Complainant Denise Young in the summer of 2003 that she had to move out of building 113 and into a building in the rear of the property. About three months after she refused, her gas was turned off. A maintenance worker told her that Mr. Ortiz asked him to turn if off so that her apartment could be exterminated, but that had never been done for exterminations in the past. Ms. Young had to pay the gas company to turn her gas back on.
19. Defendant Ortiz informed Complainant Florentina Resto in April 2004 that she and her family had to transfer from building 115 to another building because a Jewish family was moving into her apartment. When Mrs. Resto refused, Defendant Ortiz told her that her lease would not be renewed in July 2004. Mrs. Resto contacted the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) regarding Mr. Ortiz’s comments. Mrs. Resto’s lease continued only after HUD notified Cottage Manor management of her complaint.
20. Defendant Ortiz told Estaban Castro that he and his family had to move from their apartment in building 115 to make room for a Jewish family. The Castros moved to building 113 because they felt they would be put out of Cottage Manor otherwise.
21. Mr. Ortiz told Gloria Castro that she would have to pay $4,803 in back rent immediately to remain in building 115, but could pay the sum in installments if she moved. Mrs. Castro had no notice until that time that back rent had accrued because her housing subsidy had been terminated.
22. On information and belief, building 115 in Cottage Manor was 90% Jewish as of August 2004 and the other buildings were 90-100% African-American and Hispanic.
23. Complainants Daimian and Cristina Edwards lived in building 123 at the back of the property. For three months during 2000 and periodically during 2000-2004, they reported rodents in their apartment to Defendant Ortiz. Mr. Ortiz told Mr. Edwards that Defendant Kantor declined to exterminate in an effort to have African-Americans and Hispanics vacate Cottage Manor and be replaced by Jewish tenants. Ortiz also told Mr. Edwards that Kantor was reluctant to spend the money needed to exterminate the basement of their building. After Defendant Ortiz left Cottage Manor, management refused to dispatch a maintenance worker to exterminate at a time when they were home and the Edwards had to exterminate at their own expense. Similarly, a closet door and bathroom tub stop in their apartment remained broken because the workers Defendant Ortiz dispatched failed fix them and would not order parts necessary to make the repairs.
24. For a month in 2004, Complainant Olivia Wilson lived with rodents and roaches in her apartment in building 123 despite repeated requests of Defendant Ortiz to address the problem. She left Cottage Manor in April 2004 as a result.
25. Complainant Edilberto Romero moved into Cottage Manor with his family in 2001-02. Defendant Ortiz assigned them an apartment in poor condition in building 117 at the back of the property, with the promise that they could transfer in a year. The second apartment to which they were assigned was infested with roaches and mice. There was a hole in the floor at the entry through which one could see the basement. The kitchen floor lacked tiles, and there were holes in the closet walls. Defendant Ortiz told Romero that he could fix it himself, offering only supplies for that purpose.
26. On information and belief, Jewish residents living in building 115 did not experience similar problems with maintenance or extermination services.
27. Defendant Ortiz informed African-American and Hispanic tenants that they could not leave any personal possessions on their front lawns or else they would be confiscated and discarded. Jewish tenants in building 115 were allowed to leave toys, lawn furniture, and other personal possessions on their front lawn. Management maintained the lawn surrounding building 115 and built a picket fence to enclose it. In contrast, it did not maintain lawns and construct fences around the remaining buildings. Cottage Manor also disallowed the installation of washers and dryers by tenants prior to the arrival of the Jewish tenants, and then installed the appliances for free for Jewish tenants while charging non-Jewish, Hispanics and/or African-Americans for that service.
28. On or about June 23, 2004, Complainants Jose and Florentina Resto filed a timely complaint with HUD against Triple H. Realty alleging that Triple H. Realty committed discriminatory housing practices against them, on the basis of religion (non-Jewish) in violation of Section 3604(b) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b).
29. On or about August 19, 2004, Complainants Jose and Florentina Resto amended their HUD complaint to add race (African-American), color (black), and national origin (Hispanic) as bases of the discrimination and to allege that Triple H. Realty engaged in coercion, intimidation, threats, and interference in violation of Sections 3604(b) and 3617 of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3604(b), 3617.
30. On or about November 3, 2004, the Restos’ HUD complaint was amended to add Complainants Estaban and Gloria Castro, Daimian and Cristina Edwards, Denise Young, Olivia Wilson, and Edilberto Romerro as complainants; to amend the name of Triple H. Realty to Triple H. Realty, LLC; and to add Harry Kantor and Vincent Ortiz as respondents.
31. On or about February 2, 2005, February 7, 2006, and February 9, 2006, Complainants amended their HUD complaints to add that Defendants committed discriminatory housing practices in violation of Sections 3604(a) and (c) of the FHA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3604(a), (c).
32. As required by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD conducted an investigation of the Restos’ complaint, attempted conciliation without success, and prepared a final investigative report. Based on the information gathered in this investigation, the Secretary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g), determined that reasonable cause exists to believe that illegal discriminatory housing practices had occurred. Therefore, on or about March June 29, 2006, the Secretary issued a Determination of Reasonable Cause and Charge of Discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g), charging Defendants Triple H. Realty, LLC, Harry Kantor, and Vincent Ortiz with discrimination on the basis of religion (non-Jewish), race (African-American), color (black), and national Origin (Hispanic) in violation of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3604(a), (b), (c), and 3617.
33. On or about July 18, 2006, Complainants Jose and Florentina Resto elected to have the claims asserted in HUD’s Charge of Discrimination resolved in a federal civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(a).
34. On or about July 18, 2006, the Chief Administrative Law Judge issued a Notice of Election and terminated the administrative proceeding on the HUD complaint filed by Jose and Florentina Resto.
35. Following this Notice of Election, the Secretary of HUD authorized the Attorney General to commence a civil action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o).
36. By their actions and statements referred to in the foregoing paragraphs, Defendants have:
(a) Made unavailable or denied a dwelling because of religion, race or color, or national origin, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a);
(b) Discriminated in the terms, conditions or privileges of the rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, on the basis of religion, race or color, and national origin, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b);
(c) Made statements with respect to the rental of a dwelling that indicate a preference, limitation, or discrimination based on religion, race or color, or national origin, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(c); and
(d) Coerced, intimidated, threatened or interfered with persons in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of their having exercised or enjoyed, their rights under the Fair Housing Act, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3617.
38. Complainants are “aggrieved persons” as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i), and suffered injuries as a result of Defendants’ discriminatory conduct.
39. Defendants’ actions and statements described in the preceding paragraphs were intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for the Complainants’ rights.
40. Plaintiff re-alleges and incorporates by reference the allegations set forth in paragraphs 1-39, above.
42. Defendants’ conduct described above constitutes:
(a) A pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619; or
(b) A denial to a group of persons of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619, which raises an issue of general public importance.
43. In addition to the Complainants, there may be other victims of Defendants’ discriminatory actions and practices who are “aggrieved persons” as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i). These persons may have suffered damages as a result of Defendants’ discriminatory conduct.
44. Defendants’ actions and statements were intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for the rights of others.
PRAYER FOR RELIEF
WHEREFORE, the United States prays that the Court enter an ORDER that:
1. Declares that Defendants’ conduct as set forth above violates the Fair Housing Act;
2. Enjoins Defendants and their agents, employees, and successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with them, from discriminating on the basis of religion, race or color, or national origin, in violation of the Fair Housing Act;
3. Awards monetary damages to the Complainants and to all other persons harmed by Defendants’ discriminatory practices, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3), 3613(c)(1), and 3614(d)(1)(B);
4. Assesses a civil penalty against Defendants in an amount authorized by 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(C), to vindicate the public interest.
The United States further prays for such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.
The United States demands a jury trial.
Dated: September 29, 2006
ALBERTO R. GONZALES
s/Wan J. Kim
s/ Steven H. Rosenbaum
s/Susan Buckingham Reilly
Document Filed: September 29, 2006 > >