Three Long Island brokerages accused of racial discrimination will pay $115,000 in a settlement with New York State, nearly three years after a Newsday investigation implicated them.
Keller Williams Greater Nassau, Keller Williams Realty Elite, and Laffey Real Estate will pay the penalty as part of a settlement, the New York State Attorney General’s Office announced in a news release on Tuesday.
“Efforts to discriminate against any New Yorker’s fair access to housing cannot, and will not, be tolerated,” Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “These investigations have uncovered a pervasive culture of allowing unlawful discrimination and violations of every New Yorker’s right to fair housing. These settlements should send a clear message: if you discriminate and deny New Yorkers their basic right to housing, we will take action.”
The penalties will fund fair housing training for agents and the enforcement of fair housing laws in Suffolk and Nassau Counties on Long Island. Laffey will pay $30,000 to the state and $35,000 to Suffolk County to conduct unannounced fair housing training of any Laffey agent at any Laffey Branch. Both Keller Williams franchises are required to pay $25,000 to Suffolk County and spend $25,000 on fair housing training for its agents, according to the attorney general’s office.
The 2019 Newsday investigation found that numerous Long Island agents steered white property buyers away from minority neighborhoods, and directed minorities into areas with less white residents.
Diane Leyden, a manager at Laffey Real Estate in Great Neck, was captured on a hidden camera steering a actor posing as a Hispanic homebuyer away from whiter areas, lecturing him on viewing properties outside of his budget, without any insight into his finances. In her interactions with a white actor, Leyden was captured not offering any of the same warnings on budgeting, and guiding the buyer towards whiter neighborhoods.
“Do you want your kids to be in school with kids that they relate to?” she asked the white actor, according to the attorney general’s investigation.
Additionally, Laffey broker Nancy Anderson asked a Black actor to prove he had been preapproved for a mortgage before agreeing to show him any properties, a step she did not make any white actors take.
Keller Williams agent Le-Ann Vicquery was accused of steering a Black homebuyer into the minority neighborhood of Brentwood, while warning a white tester to research gang violence in the neighborhood.
Vicquery was one of the 23 agents sued by the New York Department of State on the heels of the Newsday investigation. Vicquery initially won her case but the state appealed and came out on top, resulting in the suspension of her real estate license for 30 days.
Few of the brokers named in the probe have admitted wrongdoing. The Keller Williams branches have taken a firm stance against the allegations, denying they ever steered anyone away from certain neighborhoods based on their race.
In December 2019, all but one of the 68 agents asked to appear at a New York State Senate hearing on housing discrimination declined to appear, displeasing lawmakers.
In addition to state investigations and hearings, the investigation also prompted more of an emphasis on housing discrimination training on Long Island. In July, the Long Island Board of Realtors launched a new effort to promote fair housing.
Neither of the Keller Williams franchises or Laffey Real Estate responded to messages seeking comment.