Mastic Beach, New York – On February 9, 2015, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) and pro bono counsel Cooley LLP filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Central Islip on behalf of Long Island Housing Services, Inc. (LIHS), six tenants, and two landlords against the Village of Mastic Beach and the head of the Village’s housing code enforcement, Timothy Brojer. The Lawyers’ Committee and Cooley LLP are representing the plaintiffs on a pro bono basis.
The suit alleges that since incorporating in 2010, the Village has abused its newfound powers over the rental permit and code enforcement processes by waging an aggressive campaign against low-income, primarily African American, tenants receiving housing assistance, as well as their landlords, to drive such tenants out of the Village. The civil rights lawsuit alleges that Brojer and the Village engaged in a pattern of unlawfully evicting these tenants and their families from their homes without cause, without notice and without due process.
According to the complaint, code enforcement officials would condemn a house or find it “unfit for human habitation” without sufficient grounds and then illegally evict the tenants and their families in violation of procedural safeguards for such evictions, often forcing the tenants and their families to move out within two hours or less. Brojer and the Village then harassed and intimidated these tenants, as well as the landlords who rented to them, in an effort to prevent these tenants from returning to their homes and to drive them out of the area. Several of these families were forced to live in homeless shelters and one family remains in a homeless shelter currently.
“These illegal evictions have caused plaintiffs and their families not only economic injury but also significant psychological damage, depriving them of basic due process protections and the ability to live peacefully with their families in Mastic Beach,” said Lawyers’ Committee Senior Special Counsel Linda Mullenbach. “The Lawyers’ Committee is committed to combatting racial discrimination and seeking justice for those who are subjected to illegal harassment and intimidation in their efforts to secure and maintain housing for their families.”
“We have worked hard as a country to prevent injustices which materially undermine basic civil rights and liberties,” said Cooley LLP Partner and Lawyers’ Committee Board member Joe Drayton. “The use of illegal racial and socioeconomic profiling to remove individuals and families from their homes without reasonable notice and due process is a great injustice.”
LIHS’ Executive Director Michelle Santantonio, states “The discriminatory and abusive actions taken by the Village officials reveal a horrendous, flagrant disregard for fair housing laws, Constitutional safeguards, tenant’s rights, and the nation’s long held priorities to promote racial and economic integration and outlaw segregation. The affected families, their landlords, as well as their friends and neighbors suffer the effects of illegal discrimination. LIHS is committed to helping victims of discrimination to challenge practices that interfere with their rights.”
The case, captioned Long Island Housing Services, Inc., et al v. Village of Mastic Beach and Timothy Brojer, Case Number 2:15-cv-00629, includes claims under federal civil rights laws and the federal Constitution, including under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, and also alleges violations of plaintiffs’ rights under the federal Fair Housing Act and Suffolk County’s Human Rights Law, both of which prohibit racially discriminatory enforcement of local housing codes. The complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages, a declaratory judgment, and an injunction to prevent further unlawful housing practices and to order Mastic Beach to develop a housing code that conforms to federal and local law. Click here to view complaint.