A federal judge has decided to hear a lawsuit brought by a group of poor Bronx tenants who maintain the city enforces its building code more stringently in rich white neighborhoods than poor black and Latino communities.
On May 5, Federal Judge Lawrence McKenna ruled that residents and tenants associations in seven Bronx apartment buildings had proven the discrimination case sufficiently to warrant a full trial. The case is due to be heard within six months, according to lawyers. The plaintiffs say they are fed up with the city’s failure to cite their landlords for leaky plumbing, faulty electrical systems and sanitation problems. Robin Binder, assistant corporation counsel with the NYC Law Department, counters that the city’s housing agency is even-handed in its inspections.
Judge McKenna ruled that the plaintiffs have the right to have the case heard in federal court because the city receives federal funding for code enforcement, there is a question of discrimination, and the tenants have a right sue under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“We will probably be adding more plaintiffs and call it a class-action,” said Matthew Chachere, attorney with the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, who represents the tenants.