Brooklyn Landlord Tried To Boot Latino Tenants, Demanded To Know Their Immigration Status: Lawsuit

Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Edgar Sandoval, Ginger Adams Otis and Andrew Keshner
New York Daily News

A Brooklyn landlord is trying to drive out Latino tenants, demanding they prove their legal immigration status and cooking up baseless eviction cases, according to a federal lawsuit.

Now current and former residents at two Sunset Park buildings are looking to bring Adel Eskander’s years of alleged discrimination to a halt with the class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday in Brooklyn Federal Court.

“I don’t like having Latinos, blacks or Chinese here because they’re sedentary. They never move. I need people to move,” the suit quoted Eskander telling one rent-stabilized tenant. He made her sign an immigration-related “lease addendum” between 2004 and 2015, court papers say.

Though the tenant became a naturalized citizen, the suit said Eskander and his wife, Linda, tried pushing her out with frivolous Housing Court cases — like a supposed lease violation for installing a new stove and refrigerator.

“The American Dream doesn’t exist,” plaintiff and tenant Altagracia Tejada, 48, said. “This is a nightmare what we are living here.

“The constant stress is too much,” added Tejada, who now pays $1,353 a month in rent. She suffered a miscarriage of one twin during a bogus 2015 nonpayment case and a doctor attributed it to “undue stress,” the suit said.

Another longtime tenant, Eliberto Silva, 57, told The News that, as the plaintiffs allege, “Hispanics got an extra piece of paper that asked, ‘Are you an immigrant? Are you an alien?’ Why is he giving us two different forms? It seems like racism.”

Silva — who pays $758 a month for the one-bedroom apartment he shares with his wife — said he only had landlord issues after Eskander bought the 40th St. buildings with 78 apartments about 15 years ago.

The landlord “thinks white people would pay market rate. He can make a lot more money if we all leave,” Silva said. When he moved in back in 1990, Silva said, there were many Latino tenants. “Now I’m one of the few.”

The tenants’ Legal Aid Society lawyers say the landlord should have learned his lesson by now.

The suit said in 2003, Latino tenants sued Eskander for discrimination. The case ended with an agreement in which Eskander and the entities linked to him would stop asking tenants of one building to show proof of legal U.S. residence.

Linda Eskander said she and her husband haven’t seen the court papers.

“Our lawyer will provide comments when we are served,” she said, adding that she is Puerto Rican, while her husband is from Egypt.

Legal Aid lawyer Morenike Fajana said Adel Eskander used Housing Court cases to push out Latino tenants there. Fajana said he made residents at the other building sign the same sort of intimidating immigration affirmations — a move that’s “deterred and displaced some tenants.”

“This case is unique because of how flagrant his behavior has been,” said Sunny Noh, also with Legal Aid.

The case comes as there are a growing number of city probes into discrimination claims based on immigration status or national origin.

Between 2015 and 2016, the city Commission on Human Rights opened 376 such investigations. That’s more than double the 155 investigations launched in 2013-2014.

Last year’s statistics aren’t ready, but a commission spokesman said anecdotally, “We’re seeing the same level or a slight increase.” He said the agency is now looking into more than 300 immigration and national origin discrimination claims, with more than 100 related to housing.

In the past year, the Daily News has been reporting on landlords invoking immigration — like a Queens landlord telling tenants to prove their status, or a Manhattan landlord and her Trump-supporting son sued on allegations of waging a “relentless campaign of discrimination.”

Fajana said Eskander’s alleged acts go back years, but the Trump administration put the case in a context. She said “the administration is definitely encouraging people” like Eskander to be “flagrant and open with their discrimination.”

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