Suit Alleges Anti-Kid Bias at Brooklyn Heights Brown Harris Stevens

The Brooklyn Heights branch of Brown Harris Stevens has been hit with a class-action lawsuit accusing the brokerage firm with housing discrimination. The complaint is being made Jamie Katz and his wife Dr. Lisa Nocera who say that the firm steered them away from certain rental properties because they have a child. The suit is seeking to have Brown Harris Stevens to train their agents to comply with current Fair Housing laws and according to the New York Times “unspecified” damages.

New York Times: Couple’s Suit Alleges…: The Brown Harris broker who dealt with Dr. Nocera and Mr. Katz on the two Brooklyn Heights apartments, Aileen Truesdale, denied saying that the landlords would not rent to children and said she did not think she had done anything wrong.

“I would have said it was not kid-friendly based on there being lead paint issues,” Ms. Truesdale said by phone Thursday. “Wouldn’t that be a good enough reason?” In fact, the federal Fair Housing Act outlaws doing anything to discourage someone from renting an apartment based on family status, whether by steering the potential renter away or by outright refusal to rent. So do state and city human-rights laws.

BHS VP Brian Lehner is also mentioned in the suit but denies any wrong doing the Times says.

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  • Bart

    Growing up in Brooklyn I love the sound of kids at play. I live in the back of my apartment, facing all the other gardens. For years it was EXTREMELY quiet, and very peaceful. I play a Bösendorfer Imperial so I really had to work hard to dampen the sound. And I was paranoid about my playing being the only sound in the garden.

    But in the building across the way, a new superintendent moved in and now all weekend and even late into the night, the sound of kids playing and screaming echo through the gardens. Sometimes on Saturday night as I’m going to bed I say to myself “My god, are those kids still playing out there.” I must admit it is a constant noise punctuated with crescendi of crying or something being broken. And it is surprising how late those kids stay out at night.

    During lulls in the kids playing, I’ve noticed people now play their radios and CDs much louder, perhaps to counteract all the noise coming the garden. Prior to the kids arrival, I never heard anyone else’s music,

    But because there is now MUCH more noise in the courtyard, either from the kids, or radios.CDs, I can now play my piano at more normal volume because compared to the noise of kids screaming, Schumann’s Kinderszehnen sound down-right caliphonous.

    If I didn’t have a noisy hobby myself, I probably would resent the noise of three to five children playing and making noise all weekend.

    So while I can understand people not wanting to rent to families with kids, nor would I want to live under a family who had kids in the apartment above me, as a musician, I appreciate the noise kids generate because it takes the focus of noise complaints away from me.


  • T.K. Small

    Arguably Brown Harris Stevens also discriminates against people with disabilities. When they moved into the location on the corner of Montague and Henry, after the renovations, they did not create a wheelchair accessible entrance. There is only one step so it should not have been difficult.

  • Kris

    Oh please. Then you’re going to have to blame every other business on Montague for the same thing. What 2nd story or basement level restaurant has wheel chair accessibility – not to mention bathrooms with handicap accessibility? Welcome to NY.

  • separatebutequal

    kid/non-kid segregation sounds good to me.

  • travy

    there are enough rats in brooklyn heights. nice job, brown harris stevens!

  • T.K. Small

    Hello Kris,

    Apparently you are unaware that there is an emphasis of “reasonableness” incorporated into the various disability antidiscrimination statutes. In this case, the precipitating factor is that the building has undergone a substantial alteration. Removing a single step barrier would not be seen as particularly onerous. You are absolutely correct, access to second floor and basement establishments is not required. That would be unreasonable.

    Having explained a little bit about the Americans with Disabilities Act, could you please explain why it was acceptable to start your comment with “oh please”. Such an opening remark has a dismissive and condescending quality. My comment was relevant, timely and informative.

  • ABC

    I read this story in the Times and I don’t really buy that it was the realtors acting alone. I mean, isn’t it in their interest to just rent the place as quickly as possible? I suspect the landlords told them “no kids” — at which point they should have refused the listing. I realize they later rented to a family, but this was perhaps after it sat empty for a while.

    Also, can’t you rent to whomever you feel like if the place is small – -like 2-3 units? How big could the carriage house have been?

    Lastly, and off the point: lead abatement is an issue. Painting over it is good enough for lots of parents (like me) but the law requires landlords to actually remove the lead which is really expensive and maybe overkill. Landlords should have to test for lead and disclose the findings and paint over it — in my opinion. Forcing a $10k plus abatement is what is behind all this I suspect.

  • Kris

    Hi T.K.,
    Why single out Harris Stevens and classify them as “discriminating against people with disabilities”? Perhaps it was a mistake on the part of the business owner for not “doing the right thing”, but don’t be so quick to judge when there are clearly many examples of business not making things easier for those with disabilities. Our subway system is a prime example of laziness and inconsideration of the handicapped. Perhaps we should blame our lawmakers for not creating stricter guidelines and penalties for businesses that are being inconsiderate.

  • nabeguy

    If there’s one person who has earned the right to judge the failures of our lawmakers and builders to address the needs of the disabled, it would be T.K., who has spent much of his life fighting for the right of equal access. He knows whereof he speaks on this particular topic.

  • T.K. Small

    Thank you nabeguy for your words of support. The second message from Kris only leaves me that much more annoyed. I was commenting on the accessibility of Brown Harris Stevens which was the topic of the original blog entry. If I had been discussing the larger issue of accessibility throughout Brooklyn Heights, you would have accused me of being a whining complainer.

    In terms of the subway it is a system that is more than a hundred years old. Retrofitting accessibility is substantially more expensive than eliminating a simple step barrier. I would be more than happy to trade access to the overpriced real estate listings which are probably posted within Brown Harris Stevens for complete access to the subway. Somehow I do not think that the legislators and the taxpayers will make that deal.

  • jennifer ballard

    I was so surprised by this story. I know Aileen Truesdale personally and professionally. I have referred several of my friends to her, because I believe she is a warm, friendly, and even handed woman,and she will do her absolute best to find a new home for her clients- buyers or renters. I feel sad that she was misinterpreted and judged on her ethics. As a mother herself, anything other than fitting clients with children in a safe and desired apartment, is not her,her style or anything she would consider doing. When I search for a new place to live, Aileen Truesdale will be the first person I phone.
    jennifer ballard – brooklyn ny