Denis Donovan, a rental broker affiliated with Village Realty, is accused of engaging in housing practices that discriminate on the basis of race or color.

A Staten Island real estate broker is accused by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) of engaging in housing discrimination, a violation of the Fair Housing Act, according to a complaint filed in United States District Court Eastern District Of New York.

Denis Donovan, a rental broker affiliated with Village Realty, “engaged in housing practices that discriminate on the basis of race or color, by treating African Americans who visit Village Realty to inquire about available rental units differently and less favorably than similarly-situated white persons who visit Village Realty for that same purpose,” according to the complaint.

Between February and May 2018, DOJ conducted testing — sending undercover testers of different races to simulate housing transactions — on Donovan, according to the complaint, which was first reported by Staten Island Advance. 

During the course of testing, DOJ testers found, Donovan told prospective Black renters about fewer units than white prospective renters, while also offering those prospective white renters a chance to see rental units sooner.

Donovan is also accused of offering discounts to white renters only and engaging in racial steering by offering white renters units in overwhelmingly white areas and Black renters units in integrated neighborhoods, according to the complaint.

Village Realty, the brokerage at which Donovan hangs his real estate license, is also named in the complaint.

“When Defendant Donovan engaged in the conduct described above, he was acting as an employee and/or agent of Defendant Village Realty and was acting within the scope of that employment and/or agency,” the complaint reads. “Consequently, Defendant Village Realty is liable for that conduct.”

Instances of racial steering have been under a microscope in the state in recent months, especially in the wake of a groundbreaking Newsday report on instances of racial steering on Long Island and subsequent investigation by the New York State Senate. The testing at the heart of this complaint, however, did take place in 2018, before the publishing of the Newsday report.

Email Patrick Kearns

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