NEW YORK (AP) — A civil rights organization advocating for fair housing practices sued the city on Tuesday, saying the city promotes segregation by favoring whites for affordable housing in Manhattan neighborhoods that are predominantly white.
The Anti-Discrimination Center filed the lawsuit on behalf of three black plaintiffs in federal court, where it seeks unspecified damages and court intervention to force the city to change its affordable housing practices. It said discriminatory practices have a similar effect on Latino residents.
The city law office said it will review the complaint before it responds to it.
The executive director of the not-for-profit Anti-Discrimination Center, Craig Gurian, said New York residents should study the facts before bragging about the city's diversity and criticizing the housing demographic mix in other cities.
"In New York, you can't go 10 minutes without hearing 'diverse this, diverse that,'" he said. "New York has made less progress against segregation, particularly with African-Americans, than almost any major city. Despite all the rhetoric, New York has a very big problem."
The lawsuit said it was challenging a city policy that largely limits applicants for affordable housing to people who already live in the neighborhood. It said the long-running practice that reserves 50 percent of units available in housing lotteries for neighborhood residents stems from intentional discrimination by the government, developers, landlords and others.
As a result, blacks have been largely restricted for the past century to a small number of poverty-stricken areas, leaving half of the city's black population living in about 15 percent of its 59 neighborhoods, the lawsuit said. It added that 17 community districts had black populations of less than 5 percent even though blacks make up nearly 23 percent of the city's population.
"There is no community district in the city where the current demographic pattern has not been influenced or shaped, at least in part, by past intentional discrimination or by past or current policies that perpetuate segregation," the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said the city's policy perpetuates entrenched segregation and limits access to low-crime neighborhoods with high-quality schools, health care, parks and employment opportunities.
The lawsuit described residential segregation dating to the 1800s, saying it became clear that blacks were unwelcome in large parts of the city. It noted that many disproportionately white neighborhoods remain off-limits to public housing.
Citing figures from the 2010 census, the lawsuit said New York was the second most segregated large city in America when the populations of blacks and whites were considered.