HarckhamJohnsonWilliamsLatimerJenkinsCoopBillSigningSMALLERDecember 14, 2018 – Joined by former sponsors of the bill, including Senator-elect Pete Harckham and Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins, advocates representing all impacted parties and the bill’s current sponsors, County Executive George Latimer signed the bill aimed to combat discriminatory housing practices into law.

The law aims to curb housing discrimination by creating a timeframe and process that allows for both buyers and sellers of co-ops to have some peace of mind.

Latimer said: “This law had strong feelings on both sides - and the negotiated settlement was to ultimately a desire to take the vision of the original bill and get it done. We are grateful that we have a democratic process where we can be argue, disagree, we can be heated, but we are also willing to engage long enough to find closure – and when we do find closure it is a sign of the strength of the American system across party lines and different levels of government.”

Under this new law, co-ops are required to send all rejections to Westchester County’s newly re-invigorated Human Rights Commission. This allows the Human Rights Commission to track any pattern of housing discrimination by a particular co-op board. If discrimination is found, the Human Rights Commission can bring action.

This law also requires co-op board to acknowledge receipt of a completed application within 15 of its submission and a final decision, either an acceptance or rejection, within 60 days of that submitted completed application.

The law, which was first introduced roughly 20 years ago at the Board of Legislators, has had a long list of sponsors including State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, State Senator-elect Pete Harckham, former Chairwoman of the Board Lois Bronz and Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins. These are in addition to current sponsors Vice-Chairwoman of the Board Alfreda Williams, Legislator Catherine Borgia and Legislator Chris Johnson.

State Senator-elect, and former bill sponsor, Pete Harckham said: “I want to congratulate the Board of Legislators, the County Executive and the Deputy County Executive for getting this done. During my time at the Board, both as Majority Leader and Chair of the Housing Committee, we heard testimony from all sides of the issue on how they would be impacted. This was a great compromise and a fine piece of legislation.”

Deputy County Executive, and former bill sponsor, Ken Jenkins said: “This law creates a process where if you see patterns of certain things happening, we can provide education – which is a result of conversations back and forth and listening to everyone. Oftentimes people may look at the legislative process say ‘it is too slow’ – but sometimes, good things take time and this is one of them.” 

This law also has the approval of both realtors representing potential co-op buyers and advocates representing the co-op boards.

Executive Director of the Building and Realty Institute (BRI) and Cooperative and Condo Advisory Council (CCAC of Westchester) Albert A. Annunziata said: “This was a hard fought compromise that came from the efforts of reasonable, good people with a social benefit in mind. My colleagues and I at the BRI and CCAC are in support of this collaborative effort to make the applications and approval process even better. We already have a process of how we can remove from our organizations any co-op that is found to have taken part in discriminatory practices and we have zero tolerance for discrimination.”

Broker-Owner of Westchester Choice Realty Barry Kramer said: “This legislation has long been something that my colleagues and I have advocated for – and this compromise is one that we welcome. Discrimination in the co-op buying process is something that no Westchester resident should be subjected to and I thank the County Executive, Deputy County Executive and the Board of Legislators for taking this step to ensure that.”

The law takes effect immediately with a “sunset” clause that calls for the bill to expire in three years, at which time legislative leaders will further study its impact.