“No-Display” Bylaw Used to Discriminate Against Jewish Residents

NEW YORK, NY (November 2, 2009) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that Stone Ridge Estates at Dix Hills Home Owners Association, which oversees seventy-six condominium units located in Dix Hills, New York, has entered into an agreement with his office to guarantee that its bylaws do not discriminate against residents because of their religion. Under the terms of the agreement, the Association must draft and institute new policies that permit residents to display religious objects on their properties, without the Association’s prior permission. The Association is also required to pay $10,000 to resolve the investigation.

“This country guarantees every individual the right to express his or her religious beliefs,” said Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. “And New York State, with our fair housing laws, guarantees that no resident will be discriminated against based on that expression. The practices employed by the Dix Hills Homeowners Association went against the fundamental protections and promises of our laws. By reforming their bylaws and practices, they will ensure that no resident will be the victim of this kind of discrimination.”

The settlement follows an investigation by the Attorney General’s office into the bylaws and practices of Stone Ridge Association after receiving and reviewing a complaint that the Association discriminated against Jewish residents who affixed a mezuzah, a four to five inch long object of their religious faith, on the inside doorpost of their front door. Stone Ridge Association asked residents to either take down their mezuzahs or purchase a screen door costing between $300 to $500 dollars to conceal the object.

Stone Ridge Estates bylaws prohibited residents from changing or altering the exterior of their home without permission, which includes the affixing of signs, advertisements, or statuary. However, the complaint alleged that homeowners who exhibited larger objects, such as wreaths, were not asked to remove the displayed items. When contacted by the Attorney General’s Office, the Association readily agreed to change its policies and comply with the law.

Under New York State Human Rights Law and the Federal Fair Housing Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against residents on the basis of religion in the terms, conditions, and privileges of housing. Specifically, the law prohibits discriminatory practices that make housing unavailable to individuals as well as discriminatory terms and conditions with respect to housing that is provided.

Ron Meier, New York Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League, a national non-profit that fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, said: We thank the Attorney General for investigating this matter and achieving a result which advances the principles of equality and non-discrimination in housing, and ensures that residents of certain religious faiths are not harassed or treated differently than other residents.

This case is being handled by the Civil Rights Bureau Chief Alphonso B. David, Counsel for Civil Rights Spencer Freedman and Assistant Attorney General Sudarsana Srinivasan.