Sunset Park landlords discriminate against Latino tenants, lawsuit says

The landlords required Latino tenants to prove their immigration status, a lawsuit claims.

The landlords of two Sunset Park buildings who are accused of trying to push out Latino residents will be on trial this summer, a judge ruled last week. 

Adel and Linda Eskander forced Latino tenants to prove their legal status when they renewed their leases, attempted to evict them and told them they only wanted white tenants, according to a class-action lawsuit filed by the Legal Aid Society in January. 

The Eskanders, who operate Little City Realty LLC and Little Boy Realty LLC and are the landlords of 601 40th St. and 614 40th St., argued for the suit to be dismissed, but Senior U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein ruled against them, saying there is “testimonial and documentary support” for the plaintiffs’ claims.

The case will now go to trial on July 9, according to court documents provided by the Legal Aid Society.

The landlords, who could not be reached for comment, only required tenants who were “perceived as Latino” to confirm their legal immigration status at the time of lease renewal, according to the suit.

They also brought “frivolous eviction proceedings” against Latino tenants, such as not cashing a check from a resident and then accusing her of not paying rent, the suit says. In cases when they were able to push out the Latino tenants, most of whom had rent-stabilized apartments, the Eskanders increased the rent to illegal amounts and “misrepresented the rent regulatory status,” the lawsuit says.

Adel Eskander also is quoted in the suit as allegedly saying, “I don’t like having Latinos, blacks or Chinese here because they’re sedentary. They never move. I need people to move.”

The Eskanders were sued for similar behavior in 2003, but after that suit was settled, they continued discriminatory behavior, Legal Aid lawyers said.

While the discrimination in the buildings has been going on for years, the current political climate has heightened the threat to immigrants, Sunny Noh, the supervising attorney of the Tenant Rights Coalition at the Legal Aid Society, said after the suit was filed in January.

“People of color have a lot more reason to be intimidated,” she said.

Nicole Brown