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Urby Staten Island accused of racial discrimination in lawsuit

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A federal complaint filed by Legal Services NYC alleges that the luxury development violated the Fair Housing Act

Max Touhey

Urby Staten Island—the luxury rental complex developed by Ironstate Development and situated in the borough’s North Shore neighborhood—is being accused of racial discrimination and is the subject of a new federal complaint.

The suit, filed by Legal Services NYC on behalf of three current and former low-income African American tenants of the complex, alleges that the 450-apartment complex that opened in 2016 is guilty of violating the Fair Housing Act and the New York City and State Human Rights Laws.

Per the complaint, shortly after the development opened, some of the tenants living in the market-rate units began making complaints on social media forums about the behavior of low-income tenants, “using racially charged language such as ‘ghetto’ and ‘crackheads.’” This prompted Urby to initiate a “campaign of harassment” that involved housing court litigation and aggressive buy-out offers to low-income black tenants with rental subsidies.

Urby Staten Island allegedly allowed the three plaintiffs in the suit to be constantly harassed by security staff while also denying them access to the same services provided to market-rate tenants. Ultimately, two of the tenants said that they felt compelled to give up their rent-stabilized apartments after the landlord pursued eviction proceedings.

“Urby benefits from millions of dollars in incentives from New York City to offer affordable housing to low income tenants of all races in Staten Island, on an equal footing with the higher income tenants and free from harassment and discrimination,” said Rachel Granfield, Senior Staff Attorney at Staten Island Legal Services, part of Legal Services NYC, in a statement. “Urby’s racial targeting of its low-income tenants is a gross breach of its legal and moral obligations as a publicly subsidized affordable housing complex and is a clear violation of Federal, City and State laws.”

Curbed reached out to Urby Staten Island but has not yet received a response.

Update: In a statement to Curbed, Urby Staten Island called the lawsuit “completely baseless and utterly without merit.”

“We treat all of our tenants equally, in full compliance with all city, state and federal fair housing and anti-discrimination laws,” said a spokesperson for the development. “We are proud of the harmonious and diverse community we have created in Staten Island, but it is our responsibility to enforce all of our tenants’ lease obligations for the benefit of the entire community.”