Brokerages cough up $115k to settle Newsday discrimination claims

Long Island’s Keller Williams, Laffey admit no fault, agree to provide trainings

From left: Keller Williams’ Richard Amato and Greg Masaitis; Laffey Real Estate's Philip Laffey and Mark Laffey; Attorney General of New York Letitia James (rear center) (Getty Images, Keller Williams, Laffey Real Estate)
From left: Keller Williams’ Richard Amato and Greg Masaitis; Laffey Real Estate's Philip Laffey and Mark Laffey; Attorney General of New York Letitia James (rear center) (Getty Images, Keller Williams, Laffey Real Estate)

Nearly three years after a Newsday investigation pulled back the curtain on racial discrimination by Long Island residential brokers, three agencies named in the probe will fork over $115,000 as part of a settlement with New York State.

The penalties, paid by two Keller Williams franchises — Keller Williams Greater Nassau and Keller Williams Realty Elite — and Long Island-based Laffey Real Estate, will fund fair housing trainings for agents and the enforcement of fair housing laws in Suffolk and Nassau Counties.

But none of the brokerages acknowledged wrongdoing.

Keller Williams’ Long Island branches drew a hard line against the allegations, explicitly denying they steered undercover testers away from certain neighborhoods based on the tester’s race.

Individual brokers at the firm have taken similar stances against discrimination claims.

On the heels of the Newsday exposé, the New York Department of State sued 23 brokers identified in the outlet’s probe. One was Keller Williams Realty agent Le-Ann Vicquery, alleged to have directed a Black Newsday tester toward the minority neighborhood of Brentwood while warning a white tester to research gang violence in the area.

Read more

Long Island Board of Realtor's Tessa Hultz (LIRealtor.com, HomeForAllOfUs.org, iStock)
Residential
Tri-State
How not to discriminate: Long Island Realtors launch fair housing effort
A judge ruled in favor of a real estate agent accused of racial steering (Getty)
Residential
Tri-State
Judge rules tester in Newsday’s racial steering investigation was “not credible”
Jed Garfield of Leslie J. Garfield; Richard Grossman, president of Halstead Real Estate; Sarah Saltzberg, principal broker and CEO of Bohemia Realty Group; Douglas Elliman’s Howard Lorber
Popular
New York
NYC brokers slam bias, promise action after Newsday exposé

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Vicquery’s case was initially dismissed last year. But the state appealed and won the suit in February, which resulted in the 30-day suspension of Vicquery’s license, legal documents show.

The agent filed a complaint in June to have the suspension “annulled, vacated and stricken from her record,” alleging she was “simply the victim of a politically charged [sic] atmosphere, and her suspension had no basis in law.”

Similarly, Laffey Real Estate neither admitted nor denied fault in the state’s discrimination probe.

Newsday’s deep dive reported two Laffey agents gave preferential treatment to white homebuyers.

Broker Nancy Anderson asked a Black tester to show he’d been preapproved for a mortgage before viewing properties, a hoop she did not require one of Newsday’s white testers to jump through.

Diane Leyden, a manager at Laffey’s Great Neck office, questioned a Hispanic tester about his finances and lectured him against viewing homes outside his budget before steering him to househunt in areas with fewer white homeowners. Leyden did not extend the same warnings to a white tester whom she also guided toward neighborhoods with a whiter racial makeup.

“Do you want your kids to be in school with kids that they relate to?” she asked the white tester, according to the attorney general’s office.

None of the Keller Williams franchises, Laffey or Vicquery immediately responded to a request for comment. Anderson and Leyden could not be reached.