Settlement reached over Long Island race-based housing discrimination

YAPHANK, Long Island (WABC) -- A Long Island non-profit reached a settlement with the state Wednesday to end its practice of housing discrimination on the basis of race and national origin.

The Yaphank-based German American Settlement League will also overhaul its policies as part of the agreement with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who launched an investigation after reports that the organization historically excluded non-white, non-German individuals from membership and home ownership in its community.

At that time, the GASL's by-laws expressly limited membership in the organization and home ownership to individuals "primarily of German extraction and of good character and reputation."

About 50 houses dot the property just off Mill Road, and German families have occupied the homes for generations. But residents say they don't discriminate against non-German home buyers.

"I have friends of all races, and we come up here and hang out," League board member Kaitlyn Webber said. "My family is very open. We've never had issues with people discriminating against anybody up here."

The settlement prohibits the GASL from discriminating against individuals on the basis of race or national origin and requires the organization to fully reform membership policies, governance structure and internal controls in order to ensure compliance with existing federal, state, and local fair housing and not-for-profit corporation laws.

That includes replacing its president and treasurer, and regularly reporting to the Attorney General's Office to demonstrate compliance.

"The GASL's discriminatory practices were a remnant of a disgraceful past that has no place in New York or anywhere," Schneiderman said. "This agreement will once and for all put an end to the GASL's discrimination, ensuring that all New Yorkers are afforded equal access to housing opportunities - regardless of their race or national origin."

The GASL functions as a membership organization, with the majority of the GASL land is reserved for residential use. At its board's discretion, the GASL leases individual parcels to private member-residents.

When a particular member purchases a home in the GASL community, he or she purchases the dwelling structure only and leases the underlying parcel on a periodic basis from the GASL.

Under the agreement announced today, GASL agrees to:
--Cease discriminating against any individuals on the basis of race or national origin and fully comply with fair housing and nonprofit corporation laws
--Adopt broad remedial governance reforms, including the immediate replacement of its current President and Treasurer;
--Regularly report to the Attorney General over a period of three years to demonstrate compliance with the agreement, including any changes to the by-laws, revised membership applications, meeting minutes, financial reports, and documents related to complaints of possible discrimination against individuals applying for membership or seeking to buy property from the GASL or its members
--Publish notices within the Yaphank community publicly affirming that the GASL is committed to equal housing opportunity and does not discriminate against potential members or home buyers based on any protected status
--Implement a written record retention policy that will ensure proper storage of the organization's corporate records, including the record of revised application screening processes imposed by the agreement that will enhance transparency and ensure the GASL does not discriminate against any individuals on the basis of their race or national origin
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