A shareholder in a Murray Hill co-op was recently bombarded with homophobic slurs by a fellow resident in the lobby – as the doorman looked on and did nothing. When the shareholder complained to the co-op board, he was told the board didn’t get involved in personal disputes unless a criminal act took place. “Your thoughts?” the aggrieved shareholder writes to the Ask Real Estate column in the New York Times.
“Bigoted comments have no place in a cooperative,” says Tom Shanahan, a civil rights lawyer. A letter from a lawyer to the board, he adds, should convey that you hope to “work with the co-op board to make sure that people follow the rules and respect each other.” Meanwhile, check the co-op’s proprietary lease and bylaws, which frequently prohibit residents from engaging in unlawful behavior, such as making discriminatory statements.
If the slurs recur and the board still refuses to intervene, the target of the invective can file an administrative complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights or the New York State Division of Human Rights. Both agencies can appoint a lawyer free of charge. The co-op, of course, will have to foot its own legal bill.
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