From Albany: Housing Discrimination Bill; Demand for Zucker to Testify

Assemblyman Keith Brown (R,C,I- Northport) and other Assembly Republican members  are pushing a subpoena requiring New York State Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard A. Zucker to testify before the Legislature regarding COVID-19 nursing home deaths.

Republicans are seeking answers to questions about Covid-19 deaths in  nursing homes and questioning the details provided by Zucker and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

“Unfortunately, the Majority’s leadership has been unwilling up to this point to seek out answers from the Gov. Cuomo and Dr. Zucker for the families and loved ones who want answers,” Brown said. “We should put the politics aside and come together to seek justice for the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who lost their lives because due to Gov. Cuomo and Dr. Zucker’s March 25th mandate. There is definitely a discrepancy in the numbers. We need to fix this problem now and prevent such a tragedy from happening in the future.”

State Attorney General Letitia James challenged how Covid-19 deaths were counted on Jan. 28.

Housing Discrimination Bills

State Sen. Jim Gaughran and fellow Democrats have passed legislation to further address housing discrimination in the state.

This follows last year’s passage of legislation sponsored by Gaughran to combat housing discrimination by allowing the revocation of a real estate agent’s license, if that agent is found to have violated NYS’ Human Rights Law.

The newest package of legislation follows two public hearings into housing discrimination on Long Island, and a 97-page investigative report compiled by the State Senate on fair housing and discrimination on Long Island. The bills include Gaughran’s legislation to create an anti-discrimination housing fund, as well as bills to implement fair housing practices, implicit bias training, compensatory relief to victims of housing discrimination, and increase required training.

Gaughran said, “Long Island has a long and tragic history of racial discrimination that won’t be solved overnight. But my colleagues in the Senate Majority and I are committed to addressing it, and to prohibiting racist practices like ‘steering’ that are unfortunately far too common in Long Island’s housing industry, as uncovered by Newsday’s bombshell report.”

The bills advanced include:

●  Anti-Discrimination Housing Fund: This legislation, Senate Bill S.945B sponsored by Sen.  Gaughran, would increase the maximum fine imposed by the Department of State on real estate licensees to $2,000, and direct fifty percent of the fine collected to a newly created Anti-Discrimination in Housing Fund to be used by the Attorney General for fair housing testing and other grants to local agencies and non-profits to fight housing discrimination.

●  Annual Covert Fair Housing Testing: This legislation, Senate Bill S.112 sponsored by Senator Anna Kaplan, requires the attorney general to conduct annual covert fair housing testing to assess compliance with fair housing laws throughout New York State.

○  “Fair housing testing” would include annual covert investigations conducted for the purpose of comparing how members and non-members of a protected class are treated when they are otherwise similarly situated (similar to federal pair testing), and gathering evidence of compliance with fair housing provisions pursuant to Human Rights Law.

●  Implicit Bias Training: This legislation, Senate Bill S.538B sponsored by Senator Kaplan, requires real estate brokers and salespersons to receive implicit bias training as part of their license renewal process.

●  Compensatory Damages: This legislation, Senate Bill S.715 sponsored by Senator Thomas, compels the Commissioner of the Division of Human Rights to award compensatory damages, punitive damages, or other relief to victims of housing discrimination.

●  Affirmatively Further Fair Housing: This legislation, Senate Bill S.1353 sponsored by Senator Kavanagh, establishes the State’s Obligation to “Affirmatively Further Fair Housing” – Directs the commissioner and heads of all housing agencies to establish and administer housing programs in a manner that affirmatively further fair housing.

●  Increases Required Training: This legislation, Senate Bill S.2132B sponsored by Senator Skoufis, requires additional testing and training for initial licensing of brokers and salespeople, including specific courses on fair housing laws, the legacy of segregation, and anti-bias training, and requires licensing course faculty to certify that curriculum complies with Department of State regulations.

●  Standardized Client Procedures: This legislation, Senate Bill S.2131A sponsored by Senator Skoufis, requires standardized client intake procedures for real estate brokers.

●  Surcharge Fee: This legislation, Senate Bill S.2133A sponsored by Senator Skoufis, adds a surcharge to the fee paid for issuing or reissuing a real estate broker or salesmen license and directs the new funds to be used for fair housing testing by the Attorney General.

●  Statutory Obligations of Oversight: This legislation, Senate Bill S.2157A sponsored by Senator Thomas, requires associate real estate brokers serving as real estate officer managers to exercise supervision over other associate brokers and real estate salesmen.

●  Client Demographic Data: This legislation, Senate Bill S.2525A sponsored by Senator Kavanagh, requires real estate brokers to compile client demographic data and submit it to the secretary of state.

Memorial Returned

A memorial to a young woman killed in a drunk driving accident in Rhode Island has been returned to her family through the efforts of park staff at Orient Beach State Park.

The wooden memorial washed up on a beach at the park, where Manager Bill Bohach found it. Parks Aide Jorge Eusebio searched the internet forthe name carved into the memorial, and reached out to potential relatives on social media, ultimately making contact with family in Florida.

The memorial had been vandalized and floated for several months across Block Island Sound to Orient Beach. These extra efforts helped create a Christmas miracle for a family still grieving their daughter’s death, in the New York State Parks Blog, where weekly posts cover a variety of historical, natural and other Parks topics. Hope Floats onto a State Parks Beach.

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