Public Hearing - September 17, 2020

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       4      AND
       5      ----------------------------------------------------

       6                 JOINT VIRTUAL PUBLIC HEARING:


       9      ----------------------------------------------------

      10                                 Date:  September 17, 2020
                                         Time:  10:00 a.m.

      12      PRESIDING:

      13         Senator Brian Kavanagh, Chair
                 NYS Senate Standing Committee on Housing,
      14         Construction, and Community Development

      15         Senator James Skoufis, Chair
                 NYS Senate Standing Committee on Investigations
      16         and Government Operations

      17         Senator Kevin Thomas, Chair
                 NYS Senate Standing Committee on Consumer Protection

      19      SENATORS PRESENT:

      20         Senator Thomas F. O'Mara, Ranking Member
                 NYS Senate Standing Committee on Investigations
      21         and Government Operations

      22         Senator Philip M. Boyle

      23         Senator Leroy Comrie

      24         Senator James Gaughran

      25         Senator Robert Jackson


       1      SENATORS PRESENT (cont.)

       2         Senator Todd Kaminsky

       3         Senator Anna Kaplan

       4         Senator Liz Krueger

       5         Senator Monica Martinez

       6         Senator Gustavo Rivera





















              SPEAKERS:                               PAGE  QUESTIONS
              Ann Conroy                                17      30
       3      Chief Executive Officer
              Donna Rogers
       4      Real-Estate Agent
              Francia Perez
       5      Real-Estate Agent
              Judi Ross
       6      Real-Estate Agent
              Lisa Casabona
       7      Real-Estate Agent
              Douglas Elliman
              Richard Amato                             89      99
       9      Broker in Charge
              Keller Williams Greater Nassau
              Kevin Geddie                              89      99
      11      Real-Estate Agent
              Joseph Moshe                             126     140
      13      Broker/Owner
              Stephanie Giordano
      14      Real-Estate Agent
              Maurice Johnson
      15      Real-Estate Agent
              Edwin Torres
      16      Real-Estate Agent
              Charles Rutenberg Realty
              Alan Eldridge                            176     191
      18      Broker
              Joy Tuxson
      19      Broker/Agent
              Christopher Hubbard
      20      Broker/Agent
              RE/MAX Beyond
              Rosemarie Marando                        176     191
      22      Real-Estate Agent
              Coldwell Banker Reality




              SPEAKERS (cont.):                       PAGE  QUESTIONS
              Dr. Jacob Faber                          222     229
       3      Associate Professor
              New York University's
       4        Robert F. Wagner School of
                Public Service
              Dr. Max Besbris                          222     229
       6      Assistant Professor of Sociology
              University of Wisconsin, Madison
              Akhtar Somekh                            252     261
       8      Real-Estate Agent
              Rosalind Resnick
       9      Real-Estate Agent
              Coldwell Banker
              Elaine Gross                             272     282
      11      President/CEO
              Erase Racism
              Fred Freiberg                            272     282
      13      Founder and Executive Director
              Fair Housing Justice Center













       1             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Good morning, and welcome

       2      to the New York State Senate's September 17, 2020,

       3      public hearing that seeks to further examine housing

       4      discrimination on Long Island, an effort prompted by

       5      "Newsday's" 2019 expos�.

       6             The Committee on Investigations and

       7      Government Operations joins the Committee on

       8      Housing, Construction, and Community Development,

       9      chaired by Senator Brian Kavanagh, as well as the

      10      Committee on Consumer Protection, chaired by

      11      Senator Kevin Thomas, as hosts for today's hearing.

      12             Before I turn it over to my colleagues for

      13      opening remarks, I'd like to first take a moment to

      14      bring the public up to speed, as well as outline the

      15      ground rules for today.

      16             This is our second such hearing, the first of

      17      which was held shortly after "Newsday's"

      18      "Long Island Divided" investigative report was

      19      published.

      20             A desire for a second hearing was

      21      necessitated by the fact that 67 of 68 realtors and

      22      industry representatives, whose presence was

      23      requested, refused to appear at our prior hearing,

      24      depriving our committees of substantial testimony.

      25             Subsequently, we in the state Senate issued


       1      dozens of subpoenas to compel today's testimony.

       2             While previous Senate majorities have

       3      typically refused legislative subpoenas, our

       4      committees, with the support of Majority Leader

       5      Andrea Stewart-Cousins, felt the issue at hand was

       6      and is of such fundamental importance that it

       7      required witness appearance and accountability.

       8             After chairman and ranking member opening

       9      remarks, I'll introduce the first panel of witnesses

      10      and administrator an oath.

      11             Each witness will be afforded up to

      12      five minutes for their statement.

      13             During questions, chairs and rankers will be

      14      provided five minutes, while members of the each

      15      committee will be provided three minutes.

      16             Chairs and rankers will be afforded a second

      17      round of questions, if needed, though I respectfully

      18      request that these opportunities be judicious.

      19             I would like to remind all witnesses

      20      participating today that they are subject to

      21      Section 215.60 of the Criminal Procedure Law

      22      entitled "Criminal Contempt of the Legislature."

      23             Specifically, a person is guilty of criminal

      24      contempt of the legislature when, having been fully

      25      and duly subpoenaed to attend as a witness before


       1      either house of the legislature, or before any

       2      committee thereof, he or she (1) fails or refuses to

       3      attend without lawful excuse, or (2) refuses to be

       4      sworn, or (3) refuses to answer any material and

       5      proper question, or (4) refuses, after reasonable

       6      notice, to produce books, papers, or documents in

       7      his or her possession or under his or her control

       8      which constitute material and proper evidence.

       9             Criminal contempt of the legislature is a

      10      Class A misdemeanor, punishable by fines and jail

      11      time.

      12             To that end, there are a small handful of

      13      subpoenaed individuals that, as of this morning,

      14      have not committed to participation.

      15             Any absences will be duly noted for the

      16      record, and we will move to compel testimony, which

      17      may include referring them to be held in criminal

      18      contempt.

      19             All participating witnesses are entitled to

      20      request a sidebar with their attorneys if they are

      21      remote from one another.

      22             Upon doing so, the hearing, including the

      23      clock, will be paused until the witness returns.

      24             While discrimination is intolerable at any

      25      moment or time, today's hearing occurs amidst a


       1      backdrop of racial upheaval and reckoning in this

       2      country.

       3             It is incumbent upon all of us, more so than

       4      ever, to get the full facts of what happened here on

       5      Long Island, so that we may begin to address the

       6      inequities and outright bias, whether explicit or

       7      implicit, that exists within real estate.

       8             I look forward to today's testimony.

       9             And I'll now turn it over to

      10      Senator Brian Kavanagh for opening remarks.

      11             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you,

      12      Senator Skoufis.

      13             Thank you, Senator Thomas, also who is

      14      co-chairing this hearing, and we'll hear from in a

      15      moment.

      16             And, you know, I'm really honored to be here

      17      today with my two co-chairs and all of our

      18      colleagues who are here, who I think Senator Skoufis

      19      will introduce in a moment, as we begin to shed some

      20      light on some very disturbing incidents uncovered by

      21      the "Newsday" investigation last year, and consider

      22      steps that we can take to prevent discrimination in

      23      our state, going forward.

      24             I also want to acknowledge the extraordinary

      25      leadership of our majority leader,


       1      Andrea Stewart-Cousins, on this issue, and so many

       2      others, and the staff of all three committees, and

       3      the offices of the chairs, including my own, for all

       4      of their work in advance of this hearing.

       5             We're not doing this work in a vacuum.

       6             I think we should acknowledge that the

       7      division of human rights has been working to

       8      investigate and obtain some settlements on matters

       9      related to today's hearing, as has the attorney

      10      general.  And the attorney general has also recently

      11      funded some additional fair-housing testing in the

      12      state, which was announced a couple of months ago.

      13             I also want to acknowledge that

      14      Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas at the state homes

      15      and community renewal has been working on a survey

      16      about, you know, various ways people can participate

      17      in promoting, affirmatively, further and fair

      18      housing around the state.

      19             There's a deadline for commenting on that,

      20      but it's tomorrow.  So, you know, hopefully that

      21      will bear some fruit as well.

      22             I also just want to -- it should be

      23      acknowledged, the extraordinary work of "Newsday" in

      24      their investigative reporting, that -- during a

      25      hearing last December, and continues to be the basis


       1      for a lot of the questions we're going to be asking

       2      today.  It really is a remarkable piece of

       3      journalism.

       4             So today is about connecting the dots.

       5             We have seen instances in -- again, in all of

       6      that reporting, of behavior that seems quite

       7      disturbing.

       8             We've also in recent months had the

       9      opportunity to see the disproportionate effect of a

      10      global pandemic in our communities across the state,

      11      how certain communities were hurt far worse than

      12      others, and those communities tended to be

      13      communities of color.

      14             And, of course, we've also had a major new

      15      awareness, and lots of protests, and lots of

      16      soul-searching, about systemic racism in our

      17      policing and in other areas of our society.

      18             It is important to note that those things,

      19      again, do not happen in a vacuum.  That our country

      20      suffered many years from overt discrimination in our

      21      housing markets that has laid out the geography of

      22      our cities and our state and, really, the entire

      23      country, such that people are segregated.

      24             And fair-housing laws are intended to be at

      25      least one step toward addressing that, and ensuring


       1      that, when someone is looking for a home, as people

       2      were in this investigation, or when people were

       3      looking for rental housing, that they are not

       4      overtly discriminated against.

       5             And, of course, there are additional steps we

       6      can take to proactively further fair housing as

       7      well, in addition to avoiding discrimination.

       8             But, today, of course, is going to be mostly

       9      about those discriminatory behaviors that we

      10      appeared to witness on the video, and in the other

      11      materials gathered by "Newsday".

      12             We do have several pieces of legislation.

      13             We are going to have two panels of experts on

      14      fair housing testify today about what the

      15      investigation uncovered, and also the various pieces

      16      of legislation.

      17             We do have -- and these were mentioned in the

      18      hearing notice, but we have Senate Bill 6874,

      19      sponsored by Senator Gaughran, which was passed and

      20      signed into law already.  And that'll bring new

      21      sanctions against real-estate brokers and

      22      salespeople who commit housing discrimination.

      23             We've got Senate Bill 6713, sponsored by

      24      Senator Hoylman, which notifies housing-assistance

      25      recipients of their fair-housing rights.


       1             We've got Senate Bill 7625, sponsored by

       2      Senator Kaplan, who I think will be joining us

       3      today, which creates a fair-housing testing program,

       4      much like the one that "Newsday" used to uncover all

       5      of this extraordinary material.

       6             We've got Senate Bill 8096, which

       7      I sponsored, which would establish an obligation

       8      to affirmatively further fair housing on the part

       9      of all kind of recipients of housing assistance in

      10      our state, government entities, and others.

      11             And we've got a bill by Senator Skoufis,

      12      S7581, which would require additional training for

      13      real-estate professionals and real-estate

      14      salespeople.

      15             And, finally, by my other co-chair,

      16      Senator Thomas, S7632, which would increase the

      17      penalties for fair-housing violations, aimed at

      18      preventing such discrimination, and promoting fair

      19      housing in the future.

      20             So, again, I think we have an opportunity,

      21      beginning with our last hearing, and continuing

      22      today, to usher in a new era of accountability and

      23      transparency in all participants in our housing

      24      industry.

      25             And, hopefully, this will serve as a


       1      blueprint for others who are continuing to battle

       2      the scourge of discrimination in our society.

       3             I look forward to the opportunity today to

       4      dig in deeper to the allegations of discrimination

       5      "Newsday" uncovered, and to use what we learn today

       6      to advance our fair-housing agenda.

       7             Thank you very much.

       8             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

       9             To my other co-chair, Senator Kevin Thomas.

      10             SENATOR THOMAS:  Thank you.

      11             Good morning, everyone.

      12             I am Senator Kevin Thomas, the chairman of

      13      the Committee on Consumer Protection in the Senate.

      14             Today we convene for the second time on this

      15      very important issue after sending out subpoenas.

      16             It is unfortunate that we were forced to even

      17      use this tool to get these witnesses here, but

      18      I thank those that are here, because we need to

      19      gather the facts.

      20             To those that have intentionally ignored our

      21      subpoenas, this legislative body will prepare to

      22      seek criminal contempt.

      23             And to those who are listening, who have

      24      ignored the subpoenas, do the right thing.

      25             The issue here is housing discrimination on


       1      Long Island.

       2             "Newsday" did an incredible investigation on

       3      how potential home buyers were treated differently

       4      on the basis of their skin color.

       5             As a homeowner myself, I looked for a place

       6      that's safe, in a good community, where I can get to

       7      work, and my kid has a good school, with room for my

       8      family to grow.

       9             And everyone should have the opportunity to

      10      build wealth for their family by owning a home.

      11             I live in Levittown now, but decades ago this

      12      wouldn't have been possible.

      13             The Fair Housing Act changed all of that, or

      14      it seemed that way.

      15             The "Newsday" investigation showed us that

      16      discriminatory practices were still occurring.

      17             They found the following during paired

      18      testing:

      19             In 40 percent of the tests, evidence

      20      suggested that real-estate agents treated minority

      21      testers differently than White testers.

      22             Specifically, Black testers experienced

      23      disparate treatment 49 percent of the time;

      24             Hispanics, 39 percent of the time;

      25             And, Asians, 19 percent of the time.


       1             In 24 percent of the tests, real-estate

       2      agents steered Whites and minorities into deferring

       3      communities.

       4             Real-estate agents used school districts

       5      perceived quality when recommending places that home

       6      buyers should consider or avoid.

       7             In 80 percent of the tests, real-estate

       8      agents denied equal services to minorities.

       9             Though the agents did not flat-out refuse

      10      service, they did impose conditions on minority

      11      testers that seemed reasonable, like obtaining a

      12      prequalification for a mortgage loan before giving

      13      them any listings or showing them any homes;

      14      however, these conditions were not imposed on the

      15      paired White testers.

      16             Enough is enough.

      17             Today we will hear from these agents caught

      18      on camera, and how their actions contributed to the

      19      inequities built into our housing system for

      20      generations.

      21             It's about time someone actually does

      22      something to fix it instead of making it worse.

      23             So here we are, with my colleagues in the

      24      Senate.

      25             And I want to thank our leader,


       1      Andrea Stewart-Cousins, for leading the way on this

       2      matter, as well as my co-chairs.

       3             And, we are doing this because our

       4      constituents are tired of the lack of action, the

       5      lack of accountability.

       6             Today we change all that.

       7             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

       8             I want to acknowledge we've been joined by

       9      the ranking member of Investigations and Government

      10      Operations, Senator Tom O'Mara.

      11             Do you have any opening remarks?

      12                (No response heard.)

      13             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay, hearing none, I'll

      14      now just acknowledge those senators who have joined

      15      us, before we get to the first panel, and the order

      16      is based on where you are in my Zoom boxes.

      17             I'm just going to be reading across the

      18      screen.

      19                (Off-screen indiscernible voice.)

      20             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Senator O'Mara, do you have

      21      anything you'd like to say, opening remarks?

      22             SENATOR O'MARA:  No.

      23             Thank you very much, I'm good.

      24             Sorry.  I was on mute.

      25             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  No worries.


       1             Great to see you.

       2             So also joining us are:  Senator Boyle,

       3      Senator Liz Krueger, Senator Jim Gaughran,

       4      Senator Todd Kaminsky, Senator Anna Kaplan, and

       5      Senator Monica Martinez.

       6             With that, we'll introduce and call our first

       7      panel, which is made up of folks from

       8      Douglas Elliman.

       9             We're joined by Ann Conroy, Lisa Casabona,

      10      Francia Perez, Donna Rogers, and Judi Ross.

      11             If you can all turn on your videos, please.

      12             OFF-CAMERA TECHNICIAN:  Lisa Casabona is

      13      joining by phone.

      14             Any senators wishing to direct questions

      15      should name her so that we can be sure she is

      16      unmuted.

      17             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.  Very good.

      18             And before we get started, if you can all

      19      raise your right hand for me, please, and answer:

      20      Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth

      21      and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

      22             ANN CONROY:  I do.

      23             FRANCIA PEREZ:  I do.

      24             DONNA ROGERS:  I do.

      25             JUDI ROSS:  I do.


       1             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

       2             Ann, are you going to share any remarks to

       3      start?

       4             ANN CONROY:  Yes.  I would like to read a

       5      prepared statement.

       6             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

       7             Please keep it under five minutes, please.

       8             ANN CONROY:  Okay.

       9             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

      10             ANN CONROY:  As you know, my name is

      11      Ann Conroy.  I am the chief executive officer of the

      12      Long Island division of Douglas Elliman.

      13             I have worked in real estate on Long Island

      14      for over 35 years, and was promoted to chief

      15      executive officer of the Long Island division for

      16      Douglas Elliman in January of 2020 after serving as

      17      president of the region for over 10 years.

      18             I appreciate the opportunity to speak on

      19      Douglas Elliman's behalf at this hearing.

      20             Douglas Elliman would like to thank the

      21      New York State Senate for taking the time to address

      22      the issue of fair housing and discrimination on

      23      Long Island.

      24             I'm appearing today with Jessica Rosenberg of

      25      Kasowitz, Benson & Torres, LLP, who is outside


       1      counsel for the company.

       2             Douglas Elliman has a culture built on

       3      inclusion and diversity, and has a zero-tolerance

       4      policy towards unfair and illegal treatment of any

       5      individual or any group.

       6             The company strenuously opposes

       7      discrimination in all forms, and provides extensive

       8      training to its agents on proper conduct and

       9      compliance with all fair-housing laws.

      10             Specifically, Douglas Elliman strictly

      11      requires that its agents comply with the federal

      12      Fair Housing Act and applicable state, county, and

      13      local laws.

      14             Under the company's written policy,

      15      Douglas Elliman and its agents are prohibited from

      16      discriminating or assisting in discrimination based

      17      on any protected class, including race and

      18      ethnicity.

      19             We have provided our policies to the New York

      20      State Senate in connection with this hearing.

      21             A policy which every agent receives and must

      22      adhere to, is titled "Compliance with fair housing

      23      and discrimination laws in New York State, and

      24      related legislation regulations," states, that:

      25             Douglas Elliman and its agents must comply


       1      with all fair-housing laws."

       2             Specifically, the policy states:

       3             "DE and its agents are obliged to comply with

       4      the federal Fair Housing Act, federal Americans with

       5      Disabilities Act, New York State Human Rights Law,

       6      applicable county and local laws, and related

       7      legislation regulations."

       8             These laws require both DE and its agents not

       9      to discriminate, or assist in discrimination, as

      10      against landlords and owners, as well as against

      11      potential renters and owners, based on any protected

      12      class.

      13             The policy governs all aspects of operations,

      14      and prohibits a range of activities, including but

      15      not limited to, discriminatory or unlawful

      16      advertisements, both orally and in writing, which

      17      indicate a preference, or for or exclusion of

      18      certain protected classes; refusing to sell or rent

      19      housing based on protected classes; misrepresenting

      20      the unavailability of housing; setting different

      21      terms, privileges, and conditions for potential

      22      renters or owners, based on protected classes.

      23             Douglas Elliman policy further requires that

      24      all agents on Long Island acting as a rental agent

      25      must be certified under Douglas Elliman's rental


       1      brokerage certification program, which mandates that

       2      such agents complete a six-hour rental-law training

       3      class, including education on fair housing, and pass

       4      a written test of their knowledge of fair-housing

       5      and rental law.

       6             Douglas Elliman's policy also requires

       7      all Douglas Elliman agents to attend an annual

       8      three-hour compliance training session, during

       9      which agents are trained on compliance with the

      10      Fair Housing Act and its obligations and

      11      requirements.

      12             In light of the pandemic, this training is

      13      now conducted each month via Zoom.

      14             The monthly training is [indiscernible] by

      15      Douglas Elliman's senior vice president of learning

      16      and career development.

      17             The training also discusses in detail the

      18      regulations announced by Governor Cuomo in

      19      December of 2019, which were approved by the

      20      New York State Real-Estate Board, and which went

      21      into effect in June 2020.

      22             The training is comprehensive, with a focus

      23      on how the agents must comply in all respects with

      24      the new regulations and all fair-housing laws so as

      25      to engage in proper professional conduct at all


       1      times.

       2             For example, the training teaches that a new

       3      written Fair-Housing and Anti-Discrimination

       4      Disclosure now must be provided upon first

       5      substantive contact to a prospective purchaser,

       6      tenant, seller, or landlord, and that the form must

       7      be maintained by the real-estate broker for a period

       8      of three years.

       9             The training also teaches that a new

      10      Fair-Housing and Anti-Discrimination Notice must be

      11      displayed in the window of each office and branch

      12      office operated by a real-estate broker, and be

      13      prominently displayed on all websites operated by

      14      all real-estate licensees, and at each open house.

      15             With respect to the article that appeared in

      16      "Newsday" on November 17, 2019, I can confirm we

      17      have spoken to all the agents referenced in the

      18      article who are currently affiliated with

      19      Douglas Elliman.

      20             And in the wake of the article, we have

      21      reiterated to all agents affiliated with

      22      Douglas Elliman the importance of fair-housing and

      23      anti-discrimination protocols.

      24             We appreciate and support the New York State

      25      Senate's effort to address and eradicate illegal and


       1      unequal treatment of homebuyers, and we're prepared

       2      to work with the state Senate in its efforts to

       3      ensure real-estate agents do not engage in any

       4      unlawful discriminatory conduct.

       5             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you very much.

       6             Are any of the other panelists going to make

       7      remarks before questions, or, Ms. Conroy, were you

       8      speaking for them as well?

       9             ANN CONROY:  I believe some of the other

      10      agents have a prepared statement as well.

      11             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

      12             Do you want to just raise your hands if

      13      you're one of those with a prepared statement?

      14             Okay, okay.

      15             So why don't we start, Donna, please.

      16             Just unmute yourself as well.

      17             DONNA ROGERS:  I'm sorry.

      18             Can you hear me now?

      19             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Yep, yep.  Thank you.

      20             DONNA ROGERS:  Okay.

      21             Good morning.  My name is Donna Rogers.

      22             I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you

      23      today, to help in your efforts in preventing and

      24      halting discrimination of racial minorities on

      25      Long Island.


       1             I'm a real-estate agent affiliated with

       2      Douglas Elliman, located at its Plainview office in

       3      Long Island.

       4             The reason I am here is that I was one of the

       5      agents that "Newsday" accused of steering and

       6      disparate treatment of racial minorities in

       7      November of 2019, an article based on a paired test

       8      that occurred months apart, in May and October of

       9      2016.

      10             Although I appreciate what "Newsday" was

      11      trying to do, for exposing the continued

      12      discrimination of racial minorities, I categorically

      13      and unequivocally deny engaging in steering,

      14      disparate treatment, or discrimination of the

      15      minority tester.

      16             I was extremely disappointed to see that my

      17      test was featured in this article, and that

      18      "Newsday" reached such an erroneous conclusion from

      19      a single test administered months apart, especially

      20      since "Newsday"'s article does not identify any

      21      statement from me that mentions or even alludes to

      22      the testers' races or ethnicities.

      23             My actions had absolutely nothing to do with

      24      race.

      25             I was influenced by each tester's stated


       1      preferences and abilities with respect to home

       2      improvements, and the inventory in Plainview was

       3      different at the time of each test.

       4             "Newsday's" article also mentions that I made

       5      different statements about school districts to each

       6      tester.

       7             This is because, in between respective tests,

       8      I attended trainings during which I learned that

       9      speaking about the quality of schools -- school

      10      districts could be deemed as steering, and was

      11      advised to refrain from speaking about the quality

      12      of school districts.

      13             It sickens me that my name was associated

      14      with this article, and my actions were so grossly

      15      misconstrued and misinterpreted.

      16             I agree wholeheartedly and support your

      17      efforts to combat racial discrimination, and I would

      18      welcome and abide by any measures that you

      19      implement.

      20             Thank you.

      21             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you very much.

      22             We'll next go to Francia Perez.

      23             You just muted yourself.

      24             There you go.

      25             FRANCIA PEREZ:  Good morning.


       1             My name is Francia Perez, and I appreciate

       2      the opportunity to speak to you today, to help

       3      you -- to help your efforts in preventing and

       4      halting discrimination of racial minorities in

       5      Long Island.

       6             The reason I am here, that I was one of the

       7      agents that "Newsday" accused of steering and

       8      disparate treatment of racial minorities in the

       9      November 2019 article, based on paired tests that

      10      occurred months after -- months apart, in May and

      11      September of 2016.

      12             At the time of the tests, I was affiliated

      13      with RE/MAX Central Properties.

      14             I left RE/MAX Central Properties to join

      15      Douglas Elliman in 2017, and I work in the

      16      Douglas Elliman Massapequa office in Long Island.

      17             Although I applaud "Newsday" for exposing the

      18      continued discrimination of racial minorities,

      19      I categorically and uninvocally [ph.][sic] deny

      20      engaging in steering, desperate treatment, or

      21      discrimination of the minority tester.

      22             I was extremely disappointed to see that my

      23      test was featured in the article, and that "Newsday"

      24      reached such an enormous conclusion from a single

      25      test administered months apart, especially since


       1      "Newsday"'s article does not identify any statement

       2      from me that mentions or even alludes to the

       3      testers' races or ethnicities.

       4             My actions had absolutely nothing to do with

       5      race.

       6             I was informed by each tester, respective

       7      statements to me, about his ability to obtain a

       8      preapproval, which is not protected characteristics

       9      under the fair-housing laws.

      10             I absolutely did not discriminate against the

      11      minority tester.

      12             And it sickens me also, and my name was

      13      associated with the article, and that my actions

      14      were so grossly misconstrued and misinterpreted.

      15             I agree wholeheartedly with, and support,

      16      your efforts to combat racial discrimination, and

      17      I would welcome and abide by measures that you might

      18      implement.

      19             Thank you.

      20             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

      21             We'll now go to Judi Ross.

      22             JUDI ROSS:  Good morning.

      23             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Good morning.

      24             JUDI ROSS:  My name is Judi Ross, and

      25      I appreciate the opportunity as well to speak with


       1      you today, and help your efforts in preventing and

       2      halting discrimination of minority communities

       3      and -- or, minorities in Long Island.

       4             The reason I am here today is I am also one

       5      of the agents that "Newsday" accused of steering and

       6      disparate treatment of racial minorities in their

       7      November 2019 article, based on a paired tests that

       8      occurred in April of 2017.

       9             At the time of those tests, I was affiliated

      10      with Keller Williams Realty Elite.

      11             I left Keller Williams Realty Elite to join

      12      Douglas Elliman in January of 2018, and I presently

      13      work Douglas Elliman's Massapequa Park location.

      14             Although I too applaud "Newsday" for exposing

      15      the continued discrimination of racial minorities,

      16      I too categorically and unequivocally deny engaging

      17      in steering, disparate treatment, or discrimination

      18      of the minority tester.

      19             I was extremely disappointed to see that my

      20      test was featured in the article, and that "Newsday"

      21      reached such an erroneous conclusion from a single

      22      test, especially since its -- the article does not

      23      identify any statement from me that mentions or even

      24      alludes to the tester's race or ethnicities.

      25             My action had absolutely nothing to do with


       1      race.

       2             I simply did my best to respond to the stated

       3      preferences and requests of each tester, including

       4      with respect to home renovations.

       5             I regret making the statement quoted in

       6      "Newsday"'s article about school districts to the

       7      White tester, but I was only speaking about the

       8      school district's ratings, and I never intended to

       9      steer either tester away from or to any town or

      10      school district based on its racial composition.

      11             I absolutely did not discriminate against the

      12      minority tester, and it sickens me that my name was

      13      associated with this article, and that my actions

      14      were so grossly misconstrued and misinterpreted.

      15             And I do agree wholeheartedly with, and

      16      I support, your efforts to combat racial

      17      discrimination, and I would welcome and abide by any

      18      measures that you implement.

      19             Thank you.

      20             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

      21             We do have one witness by phone, as was

      22      mentioned before, Lisa Casabona.

      23             I don't know, since, obviously, we can't see

      24      if you raised your hand, do you have a prepared

      25      statement?


       1             If you can unmute yourself.

       2             Okay.  Hearing none, I guess we'll just jump

       3      to the questions, then.

       4             But first want to acknowledge, we've also

       5      been joined by Senator Leroy Comrie.

       6             So I'll kick it off, and if I may start with

       7      Ms. Conroy:

       8             I -- was there any internal investigation,

       9      was there any disciplinary procedures, that followed

      10      "Newsday's" expos�?

      11             It sounded look a couple of the panelists

      12      here were actually hired by you subsequent to the

      13      "Newsday" expos�.

      14             I guess the question is, you know, was there

      15      really a look in the mirror following what was

      16      revealed, and was there any accountability?

      17             ANN CONROY:  Well, obviously, it was very

      18      disturbing because we take such a strong position

      19      and we train endlessly.

      20             Every month there's a training program.

      21      Agents are required, once a year, obviously, to take

      22      it.

      23             We have an actual six-hour class, it's

      24      two parts, that, after each part, after three hours,

      25      they have to take a test.


       1             So, obviously, it was very disturbing that

       2      any one of our agents would be included in this, as

       3      a -- as --

       4             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Was anyone -- was anyone

       5      fired?

       6             ANN CONROY:  Nobody was fired because we

       7      looked into everything.

       8             We spoke to the agents.

       9             We spoke to -- we had our attorneys look into

      10      it, to make sure -- because I'm a layman, I'm not an

      11      attorney -- to make sure that there was no active

      12      discrimination.

      13             And we --

      14             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  So every -- every

      15      accusation, or alleged instance, that was brought to

      16      your attention by "Newsday" within your firm, you

      17      believe was not credible?

      18             ANN CONROY:  Well, I -- we sat with every

      19      agent, we reviewed everything with every agent,

      20      including the videos.

      21             And we felt that they did not discriminate.

      22             Yes, that is true.

      23             So I don't like to use "not credible."

      24             Obviously, the testers obviously thought that

      25      they were not being properly treated.


       1             So, obviously, we wanted to make sure that,

       2      when we spoke to the agents, that they understood

       3      the law, and they did, and that they had no intent.

       4             And so we were very comfortable, and we had

       5      our attorneys look into it, because they come from a

       6      different perspective, and we wanted to make sure

       7      that the law is upheld.

       8             We pride ourselves on diversity at

       9      Douglas Elliman.  I mean, that's actually something,

      10      we embrace everybody.

      11             And I think that any top leading real-estate

      12      company has to embrace every community and every

      13      person so that they can thrive in our society.

      14             So it was very disturbing, but we did look

      15      into it.  And we were comfortable, after we looked

      16      into it, and after we spoke to them individually,

      17      that -- that they did not discriminate.

      18             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

      19             If I may turn to Ms. Ross, do you -- what is

      20      your sense?

      21             Do you feel that steering is commonplace in

      22      the industry on Long Island?

      23             If you can characterize it, how -- you know,

      24      is it rare?  Or, do you never see it amongst

      25      colleagues?


       1             I'm not talking about you.

       2             I'm talking about generally.

       3             JUDI ROSS:  You know, I -- from anybody that

       4      I associate with, any of the agents that I have a

       5      connection to, I don't see it, but that doesn't mean

       6      it's not out there.  You know, I have -- I don't --

       7      I have a limited group that I, you know, do speak

       8      with regarding this.  And I haven't had issues.

       9             You know, I do hear, you know, from something

      10      like this, that it is out there.  But I myself have

      11      not really come across it directly.

      12             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  I will say, I do

      13      appreciate, I think you were the only one we heard

      14      from on this panel that expressed some regret or

      15      some remorse for some of the comments that you did

      16      make to the White tester.

      17             If I may, just to sort of probe the

      18      situation -- your situation that "Newsday"

      19      published, so, just as some background:

      20             So it's the minority tester that approached

      21      you.  You wrote, basically, I'm not allowed to

      22      say -- or, you said, I'm not allowed to say what's a

      23      good district or what's not.  You can look up the

      24      district, the report card.  I'll give you different

      25      towns and, you know, you'll see numbers,


       1      percentages, et cetera.

       2             And to the White tester you basically said,

       3      you know:  You can get a school report card, you can

       4      decide.  You know, legally, I get in trouble if I --

       5      and then you go into [indiscernible] a few districts

       6      that I would not -- I won't look in those towns,

       7      like for Baldwin, Amityville.

       8             The -- your attorney following that, do you

       9      recall what your attorney's sort of response to the

      10      allegation was?

      11             JUDI ROSS:  Well, it was not racially

      12      motivated at all.

      13             And, also, I had been out in the field with

      14      the White tester, and he -- it wasn't like he asked

      15      me one time.  He kept asking me about school

      16      districts.

      17             So, you know --

      18             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Your attorney -- sorry.

      19             I know my time is running out here.

      20             Your attorney, yes, they didn't -- they

      21      certainly didn't say it was racially motivated.

      22             But your attorney, the rationalization was,

      23      that the tester wanted to live within 45 minutes of

      24      Manhattan, and that's the only reason why you didn't

      25      show the White tester any houses -- or, you


       1      mentioned, let's not look in Freeport, Baldwin,

       2      Amityville.

       3             But you did show them in other communities

       4      further than 45 minutes out, in fact, further east

       5      on Long Island.

       6             So I just -- I guess my question is:  Was

       7      your attorney wrong?

       8             Has your thoughts on this evolved?

       9             What's -- what's the real story there?

      10             And then I know my time's up, so I'll let you

      11      answer, and I have to move on.

      12             JUDI ROSS:  No, it was putting all the

      13      criteria together.  It wasn't just the distance.

      14             It was putting the criteria of what worked

      15      for that buyer.

      16             So that was one of the criteria.

      17             But, basically, it was -- he kept asking me

      18      about school-district quality, and that's just what

      19      popped into my mind, you know.

      20             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

      21             I'll turn it over to Senator Kavanagh.

      22             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Great.

      23             Thank you, Senator Skoufis.

      24             So, I mean, it's been noted that -- a couple

      25      of the witnesses noted that their presence here is


       1      based on, you know, particular incidents, you know,

       2      one incident, a couple of incidents.

       3             I would just note -- like to note that that's

       4      sort of inherent in the way these things work.

       5             And the reason we're here today is not

       6      because of the three or four incidents that these

       7      particular people were involved in, but because of

       8      the accumulation of dozens of such incidents over

       9      and over again.

      10             And so, you know, the witnesses here have --

      11      first of all, you have the misfortune, I guess, of

      12      being the first panel, so, yours is the first

      13      behavior we're going to look at today.

      14             But we are going to try to view different --

      15      you know, view various situations as they come up.

      16             So I would like address some questions to

      17      Ms. Perez.

      18             During the investigation, you met with an

      19      Asian-American tester, a Mr. Chao [ph.], and another

      20      tester who was White, a Mr. Helling.

      21             Both indicated they were looking for homes in

      22      the $500,000 price range, and presented similar

      23      financial information.

      24             I have a brief video clip of the -- of some

      25      of that interaction.


       1             FRANCIA PEREZ:  Can you hear me?

       2             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Yes, I can.

       3             FRANCIA PEREZ:  Okay.

       4             The --

       5             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  If you would -- if you

       6      would, Ms. Perez, we're going to show a video clip

       7      now, I think, if that's --

       8             Do we have the clip?

       9             FRANCIA PEREZ:  I don't have the video clip.

      10             OFF-CAMERA TECHNICIAN:  Yes, we do.

      11             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  No, I'm asking you

      12      [indiscernible].  Forgive me.

      13             But the Senate's -- I'm talking to the staff

      14      who are our stream-live.

      15             FRANCIA PEREZ:  Oh, I'm sorry.

      16             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Yeah, no -- no, we did not

      17      expect you to be prepared to play the video for us.

      18                (Video clip playing, and transcribed as

      19        follows:)

      20             AGENT FRANCIA PEREZ:  When you get

      21      preapproved, you get preapproved for an amount, and

      22      taxes.

      23             THE TESTER:  Uh-huh, Uh-huh.

      24             AGENT FRANCIA PEREZ:  That's very important,

      25      before we do anything, because if I'm just going to


       1      take you out just to look, it's a waste of my time

       2      and your time, because we're not knowing exactly

       3      where you stand as a monthly payment.

       4             THE TESTER:  Uh-huh.

       5             Okay.  Well, I appreciate --

       6             AGENT FRANCIA PEREZ:  Oh, you know what?

       7             I really -- I really do appreciate you coming

       8      in, this was excellent.  I can get an idea.

       9             And I'm confident that you will get your

      10      preapproval, and I will find you a home.

      11                (End of video clip and corresponding

      12        transcription.)

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

      14             So -- so, Ms. Perez, is it normally your

      15      practice to require preapproval before providing

      16      listings and showing homes?

      17             FRANCIA PEREZ:  That's what usually is done.

      18             I have a conversation with them, and that's

      19      really what I ask, if you have a preapproval.

      20             I ask everyone that.

      21             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  And in this case,

      22      the Asian-American homebuyer did not have such a

      23      preapproval, and nor the White homebuyer.

      24             But you did go ahead and show homes to the

      25      White homebuyer without preapproval.


       1             You mentioned that it would be a waste of

       2      time to show listings to the Asian tester without

       3      preapproval.

       4             What -- what -- what explains the difference

       5      there?

       6             FRANCIA PEREZ:  Well, I had both of them meet

       7      with a -- at the time, a lender.  And I asked both

       8      of them if they were, you know -- you know, wanting

       9      to meet with a lender to see if they can get

      10      preapproved if they didn't have one.

      11             I did that for both of them, for the White

      12      tester and the Asian tester.

      13             The White tester was more specific, and he

      14      did say he had a friend that is in Seattle in the

      15      mortgage business, and he would be able to supply me

      16      with a preapproval within a day or two.

      17             And he was more specific as to the area, and,

      18      you know, just certain things that we do, you know,

      19      when they come in.

      20             And he was telling me, his wife, you know,

      21      was moved to from -- they were moving from

      22      Stony Brook to Bethpage.

      23             Whereas, the Asian tester, I said the same

      24      thing.

      25             I actually -- and it's not in that video --


       1      I did turn the computer to him, to show him, because

       2      he wanted so many areas.  And there were so many,

       3      I couldn't e-mail him.

       4             I turned the computer -- that's not on the

       5      video -- to show him, because I had pulled them up,

       6      and he said, no, he wanted all of them e-mailed.

       7             And when I asked him for the preapproval,

       8      which is not, you know, there, he said his wife was

       9      taking care of that with a friend that was a

      10      mortgage broker that was retired.

      11             And, you know --

      12             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  So, again, just -- but

      13      you -- at the end of the day, you did show the

      14      White homebuyer, who did not have preapproval,

      15      some -- you provided listings, you showed some

      16      homes.

      17             The Asian tester, you did not do so.

      18             Eventually, if I understand correctly, he

      19      e-mailed you that he had preapproval.  And then,

      20      even then, it took about five weeks before he got

      21      any listings.

      22             Just how should we interpret that difference?

      23             FRANCIA PEREZ:  I wouldn't -- I don't recall

      24      that?  And I would never, never, discriminate,

      25      especially if they want to buy a home.


       1             That's my job.  I show homes to everybody.

       2             I would never discriminate.

       3             I mean, I -- I -- I even sat with both of

       4      them.  You know, I did my best.

       5             I -- I -- I put up -- pulled up the -- every

       6      town that the Asian guy wanted to see, because it

       7      was a couple of them.

       8             As a matter of fact, he had a lease.  He said

       9      to me, he had a year lease left, and that, you know,

      10      he didn't know if he would get penalized.

      11             But, you know, I still showed him.  I didn't

      12      not show him because he had a lease and he was

      13      moving from the city.

      14             I didn't even know if he worked.

      15             I still was willing to show it on the

      16      computer.

      17             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  But do you dispute the

      18      "Newsday" investigation's conclusion, that there

      19      was -- at least five weeks elapsed with the Asian

      20      tester, and that you did not show him listings,

      21      or -- you did not send him listings or show him any

      22      homes until he provided you with preapproval?

      23             FRANCIA PEREZ:  No, I was willing to show it.

      24             I was willing to show him.

      25             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay, but you didn't show


       1      him.  Is that right?

       2             FRANCIA PEREZ:  Because he didn't -- he

       3      didn't come back.

       4             And I didn't show Mr. Owens either.

       5             I had listings on the table, that he took

       6      with him.  And that's not in the video either.

       7             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  I think we're talking

       8      about Mr. Helling in this case.  Or at least,

       9      [indiscernible] -- I guess there's -- there were --

      10      there were pseudonyms as well.

      11             Okay.  I see that my time is up, so I'll

      12      yield back to the chair.

      13             Thank you.

      14             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

      15             Senator Thomas.

      16             SENATOR THOMAS:  Thank you.

      17             I'm going to start with Ms. Ann Conroy.

      18             Ms. Conroy, what licenses do you work under?

      19             ANN CONROY:  I'm a broker for the Long Island

      20      division of Douglas Elliman.

      21             SENATOR THOMAS:  And as someone who holds a

      22      broker's license, what responsibilities do you have

      23      to your sales agents?

      24             ANN CONROY:  Well, you know, I run the

      25      operations as well as the sales portion.


       1             I run everything for Long Island, for the

       2      Long Island agents.

       3             I have approximately 26 offices.

       4             You know, we closed some during COVID, and

       5      reopened some.  So I think it's 26.

       6             We have --

       7             SENATOR THOMAS:  And -- and -- and how many

       8      sales agents work under your broker's license?

       9             ANN CONROY:  Well, it changes from day to

      10      day, as you know.

      11             But, currently, I believe around

      12      1700 licensees.

      13             So our --

      14                [Simultaneous talking by both parties.]

      15             SENATOR THOMAS:  And do you have a --

      16             ANN CONROY:  -- huh?

      17             SENATOR THOMAS:  And do you have a

      18      responsibility to supervise these agents?

      19             ANN CONROY:  Absolutely.

      20             Supervision of agents is part of our

      21      licensing requirement.

      22             SENATOR THOMAS:  And what have you --

      23             ANN CONROY:  But I also have --

      24             SENATOR THOMAS:  And what have you --

      25             ANN CONROY:  -- I also have 26 --


       1             SENATOR THOMAS:  And what have you done in,

       2      let's say, the past week, to supervise a sales agent

       3      under -- working under your license?

       4             ANN CONROY:  -- I have -- I have 5 senior

       5      managers who report directly to me.  And we have

       6      26 managers who report directly to them --

       7      approximately 26 managers.

       8             We did have to scale back a little bit during

       9      COVID.

      10             And all our programs are done by Zoom

      11      meetings.  They could be done individually or as a

      12      group.

      13             I have town hall meetings.

      14             I have one scheduled in October.

      15             SENATOR THOMAS:  And -- all right, let me --

      16      let me -- let me ask you a little directly here.

      17             The four sales agents that we have on today,

      18      do they work under your license?

      19             ANN CONROY:  They work under my license, yes.

      20             SENATOR THOMAS:  And when is the last time

      21      that they were supervised while they were at work?

      22             ANN CONROY:  Well, they're supervised every

      23      day by the manager, who is a broker of the office.

      24             SENATOR THOMAS:  Okay?

      25             ANN CONROY:  Associate broker.


       1             SENATOR THOMAS:  All right, the associate

       2      broker is also working under your license, I'm

       3      assuming?

       4             ANN CONROY:  Everybody on Long Island who is

       5      licensed is working under my broker's license, yes.

       6             SENATOR THOMAS:  Okay.  When have you, like,

       7      directly supervised any of them?

       8             Like, have you called them into your office

       9      to talk to them about what happened?

      10             ANN CONROY:  I spoke to Francia, I spoke to

      11      Donna, I did not speak directly to Judi, and I spoke

      12      to Lisa Casabona about what happened.

      13             I had my managers and my senior managers

      14      discuss this with them as well.

      15             So this did not go unhandled.

      16             I couldn't --

      17             SENATOR THOMAS:  I mean --

      18             ANN CONROY:  -- possibly speak with

      19      1700 agents.

      20             So that's why I have 26 managers, that's why

      21      I have 5 senior managers, who --

      22             SENATOR THOMAS:  -- but -- but here's the

      23      thing -- here's the thing -- right? -- I find that

      24      there is a lack of supervision here, if four of

      25      these agents are doing what they do, and not seeing


       1      that there's something wrong here.

       2             Like, for example, you have Sales Agent

       3      Ms. Perez who needed, you know, a preapproval letter

       4      from someone from the minority community, but not

       5      from the other.

       6             I mean, what exactly did your attorneys, who

       7      cleared them of any violation, like, how did they

       8      justify this sales agent not showing one home to

       9      another?

      10             You know, it's -- it's -- it baffles me that

      11      there is lack of supervision here; that you guys are

      12      not supervising these sales agents to the point

      13      where they don't seem to know right from wrong.

      14             And I find that --

      15             ANN CONROY:  Well, I --

      16                [Simultaneous talking by both parties.]

      17             SENATOR THOMAS:  -- I find that, you having a

      18      broker's license, and overseeing over 1,000 sales

      19      agents, you're not doing the job that you're

      20      supposed to be doing.

      21             So I'm very -- I'm frustrated by that; I'm

      22      frustrated that you don't have that kind of

      23      connection to all of them.

      24             ANN CONROY:  Well, you know, when you have a

      25      large multi-office company, you put policies in


       1      place.

       2             You mandate training --

       3             SENATOR THOMAS:  So here's -- here's the

       4      thing -- right? -- they're working under your

       5      license.

       6             When they work under your license, you have a

       7      responsibility to make sure that they do the right

       8      thing.

       9             And I don't see you doing that.

      10             That's it.

      11             JESSICA ROSENBERG, ESQ.:  Respectfully,

      12      Senator, I think you should let Ms. Conroy finish

      13      her answer.

      14             I think you just cut her off.

      15             Can she finish what she is answering?

      16             SENATOR THOMAS:  I'm sorry.  You're the

      17      attorney.  Right?

      18             You should not be answering questions or

      19      making any comments during a hearing.

      20             JESSICA ROSENBERG, ESQ.:  As her attorney,

      21      I'm just respectfully asking that she's allowed to

      22      answer the full question.

      23             SENATOR THOMAS:  Again, you're not allowed --

      24             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  She'll -- yeah, she should

      25      answer the question.


       1             We'll give her a few additional seconds.

       2             But please be clear, Senator Thomas is

       3      correct.  You know, just at any hearing, the

       4      attorneys are not the ones that are providing

       5      testimony here.

       6             So, please, you can communicate to your

       7      client, but you are not a participant in this

       8      hearing.

       9             Please, Ms. Conroy.

      10             ANN CONROY:  So I was trying to say, that

      11      this is a multi-office company with very strict

      12      guidance, very strict written policies.

      13             Every manager is -- meets with me once a

      14      month.

      15             COVID has stopped a lot of that from

      16      happening during COVID; however, it's twice a month

      17      via Zoom.  And we go over the law, we go over sales;

      18      we go over everything we need to go over.

      19             We go over agents and productivity.

      20             It's a sales organization.

      21             It's a sales organization, and that's very,

      22      very important.

      23             The rental certification program that I put

      24      in place, I put that in place, with tests.

      25             We're probably the only company that has


       1      agents go through a stringent course, that they have

       2      to pass with a test, before they get certified.

       3             And if they don't pass, then they can't do

       4      rentals for us.

       5             So we are very strict with guidance and with

       6      responsibility.

       7             My managers have to be brokers, as they're

       8      associate brokers.  They have to know the law.

       9             My senior managers, associate brokers, they

      10      have to know the law.

      11             They're in the offices; we're in the offices.

      12             But to expect, individually, for any one of

      13      us to speak directly to the agents is, I think, you

      14      know, unreasonable.

      15             Now, the managers, every single day, "every

      16      single day," speak to each and every one of their

      17      agents who are licensed to the office, and that

      18      occurs.

      19             SENATOR THOMAS:  Ms. Conroy, I get what

      20      you're saying, it's a very big organization.

      21             But they're working under your license.

      22             That's the issue here.

      23             And when someone works under your license,

      24      for example, I'm an attorney.  I've had, you know,

      25      individuals work under my license, but I supervise


       1      them.  I make sure that they're doing the right

       2      thing.

       3             I don't think your managers, or these

       4      meetings that you're having, actually did justice

       5      here.

       6             I mean, if they are coming here to the

       7      hearing and still saying they did nothing wrong,

       8      when we found things to be actually wrong here.

       9             So that's all I have to say.

      10             Thank you so much.

      11             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Yeah, thank you.

      12             I want to acknowledge, we've been joined by

      13      Senator Jackson.

      14             And next for questions is Senator Kaminsky.

      15             SENATOR KAMINSKY:  Hi.  My -- thank you,

      16      Chairman Skoufis.

      17             My first question is for Ms. Conroy.

      18             You know, I think you do make a statement, in

      19      a way, to 1700 agents when they watch the videos and

      20      nothing happens to any of the agents that work under

      21      you.

      22             So I want to just ask you some specific

      23      questions, because I found these videos to be highly

      24      troubling, I think most Long Islanders who viewed

      25      them find them troubling, and yet I think


       1      Douglas Elliman is really trying to do a good job of

       2      saying:  Hey, nothing happened here.  If you really

       3      look at each situation, there's no problem in any

       4      individual one.  So even though this paints a really

       5      bad picture, you have it wrong.

       6             And I think that's a mistake, and you guys

       7      are taking the wrong tack.

       8             But let me just ask you a specific question,

       9      Ms. Conroy.

      10             When Judi Ross says to someone, a minority

      11      tester, "I wouldn't go near them," for a specific

      12      school district, you're okay with that statement?

      13             ANN CONROY:  Can you -- "I wouldn't go near

      14      them"?

      15             SENATOR KAMINSKY:  Yeah.  She said, when

      16      talking about certain school districts, she said to

      17      a -- you know, she says to a White tester, about

      18      three districts that are predominately minority

      19      school districts, "I wouldn't go near them."

      20             I wouldn't go near those districts.  Like,

      21      don't even think about living in those areas.

      22             That's something you're comfortable with?

      23             ANN CONROY:  If that was put in the context

      24      of race, it would be terrible.

      25             But if it was put in context -- I don't know


       1      the entire conversation; if somebody had an academic

       2      need, or something like that, and she told people

       3      that that school district wouldn't be beneficial to

       4      that student.

       5             You know, a lot of stuff is taken out of

       6      context.

       7             On face value, if you just said, "I wouldn't

       8      go near them," that sounds terrible.  I agree with

       9      that.

      10             But I don't know the whole conversation.

      11             And --

      12             SENATOR KAMINSKY:  Did you not watch the

      13      video?

      14             ANN CONROY:  I did watch the video.

      15             SENATOR KAMINSKY:  Okay, so in --

      16             ANN CONROY:  That had nothing to do with

      17      race.  She did not say that based on race.

      18             SENATOR KAMINSKY:  Well, it has everything to

      19      do with race.

      20             She said -- when the minority tester comes

      21      in, she says, "I'm not allowed to tell you what's a

      22      good school district or what's not."

      23             When the White tester comes in, she goes,

      24      "I wouldn't it even go near them."

      25             Don't even think about these schools.


       1             That didn't give you any pause?

       2             ANN CONROY:  I think it's taken out of

       3      context, because there was a lot of conversation in

       4      between that and leading up to that.  And it's very,

       5      very hard to take snippets of conversations.

       6             When we spoke to her, we were confident that

       7      it was not based on race.

       8             If it were based on race, I would absolutely

       9      agree that that would be not the way to handle the

      10      customer or the client.

      11             SENATOR KAMINSKY:  And what would you need to

      12      hear to have you convinced something is based on

      13      race?

      14             She would have to use the actual racial term

      15      itself in the sentence?

      16             ANN CONROY:  Well, I don't know if they were

      17      talking about standards.

      18             You know, the first thing a consumer wants to

      19      know about, when they look for a home, is school

      20      district on Long Island.

      21             This is, you know, basically, it's families

      22      on Long Island.

      23             That's the first thing.

      24             And we have taught them more recently, in the

      25      last year and a half, not to bring up school


       1      districts, so -- because people misconstrue what

       2      you're saying.

       3             There are certain school districts --

       4             SENATOR KAMINSKY:  In the two videos of

       5      Ms. Perez that we just saw, you didn't see an

       6      attitude change in how she addressed one person

       7      versus the other?

       8             ANN CONROY:  I did not see any discriminatory

       9      intent on her part at all.

      10             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Look, I think

      11      Douglas Elliman -- in my last 10 seconds,

      12      Senator Skoufis, I think Douglas Elliman has a real

      13      chance to step up, acknowledge a problem, and fix

      14      it; and, instead, you're making a lot of excuses.

      15             And this is why we continue to have the

      16      problems of discrimination.

      17             ANN CONROY:  It's not an excuse, Senator.

      18             I -- we -- we have certainly changed our

      19      training now, to make sure that agents do not

      20      discuss school districts because we can see how it

      21      can be misconstrued.

      22             A minority buyer or seller can feel

      23      discriminated against if schools are brought up, so

      24      we stopped doing that.

      25             But that is one of the things that is driven


       1      by the consumer.

       2             It is very important to a consumer,

       3      regardless of their race, that their children go to

       4      a good school, that they could get a great

       5      education.

       6             And that is not -- that is not different from

       7      one parent to another, regardless of race or

       8      ethnicity.

       9             So --

      10             SENATOR KAMINSKY:  Thank you.

      11             ANN CONROY:  Since this program, since

      12      "Newsday," I do have to say, we changed the training

      13      to the agents, and told them do not bring up

      14      schools.  That the consumer has to do their research

      15      on their own.

      16             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you, Ms. Conroy.

      17             Thanks, Senator Kaminsky.

      18             Next is Senator Gaughran.

      19             SENATOR GAUGHRAN:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

      20             You know, I have a basic question I'd just

      21      like to ask everybody, and, you know, whoever can

      22      respond.  I'm going to run out of time.

      23             Okay.  I've got to start my video.

      24             I just have a basic question I'd like to ask

      25      everybody, and to the extent, you can all answer it,


       1      or anyone can.

       2             You've all mentioned the word "steering," and

       3      you have all said that you've not been involved in

       4      steering.

       5             So my question is:  How do you define

       6      "steering"?

       7             I'm not asking for a legal, technical term,

       8      unless you want to give it.

       9             Like, what is your opinion of steering?

      10             And what is your opinion of the type of

      11      activities that would be considered illegal

      12      steering?

      13             Ms. Perez?  Ms. Ross?

      14             ANN CONROY:  I can --

      15             SENATOR GAUGHRAN:  Ms. Conroy, how are you?

      16             ANN CONROY:  Hi.  How are you?

      17             "Steering" would be an agent making a

      18      decision for a consumer, where they should live, and

      19      showing them properties in that particular

      20      neighborhood or community where they feel they

      21      should live.

      22             SENATOR GAUGHRAN:  Okay.

      23             Ms. Perez?

      24             FRANCIA PEREZ:  "Steering," I don't even --

      25      I can't even explain, because I don't -- I don't do


       1      it, I don't know about it.

       2             I try to do my best with everyone.

       3             SENATOR GAUGHRAN:  Have you ever seen anyone

       4      else do it?

       5             FRANCIA PEREZ:  Not with our -- you know, our

       6      group.

       7             We're trained very well, and we all help each

       8      other.

       9             When we have questions, when we, you know,

      10      have a client that needs certain needs or help, we

      11      just help each other.

      12             We don't steer.

      13             We try to make each other better, a better

      14      agent.

      15             SENATOR GAUGHRAN:  Ms. Ross, how would you

      16      define, your opinion, of steering?

      17             JUDI ROSS:  "Steering" would be directing a

      18      buyer to go to certain areas or towns, or whatever,

      19      or influencing them, according to what you feel is

      20      right, and not what they would desire.

      21             SENATOR GAUGHRAN:  Okay.

      22             Ms. Rogers?

      23             DONNA ROGERS:  Same thing.

      24             I mean, I've never actually really

      25      experienced anything like that.


       1             But, yeah, "steering," in definition, would

       2      be directing a buyer to a certain area.

       3             SENATOR GAUGHRAN:  Have you ever seen any

       4      activity of others that would kind of look like that

       5      in all your years doing this?

       6             DONNA ROGERS:  I personally have not, no.

       7             SENATOR GAUGHRAN:  And I think there's one

       8      more witness.

       9             I just have your first name on my screen.

      10             Lisa?

      11             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  You're muted.

      12             If you can unmute yourself, please.

      13             Seems we're having trouble with her.

      14             SENATOR GAUGHRAN:  Okay.

      15             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  We couldn't get a response

      16      from her about opening remarks either.

      17             SENATOR GAUGHRAN:  That's fine.  All right.

      18             Well, thank you very much, Chairman.

      19             Thank you, ladies, for your answers.

      20             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

      21             Next we'll go to Senator Anna Kaplan.

      22             SENATOR KAPLAN:  Thank you, Chairman Skoufis.

      23             I want to start by thanking "Newsday" for

      24      their extraordinary work in uncovering this

      25      situation, and doing the important legwork to expose


       1      these awful practices taking place in our community.

       2             And I think it's going to take all of us

       3      really working to make sure that these don't happen.

       4             So my question is for Ms. Conroy.

       5             Has your office been in compliance with the

       6      new regulations that you talked about, that went

       7      into effect June 20th, requiring notification of

       8      fair-housing laws?

       9             ANN CONROY:  Yes, it is.  It's in compliance.

      10             SENATOR KAPLAN:  Okay.  And are you confident

      11      if, in the last few weeks, we had sent secret

      12      shoppers to your office, they would have found you

      13      to be in compliance and all your members?

      14             ANN CONROY:  Yes, I am confident of that.

      15             SENATOR KAPLAN:  Okay.

      16             Does your agency use terms like "neighborhood

      17      specialist," "neighborhood experts," as a marketing

      18      tool to prospective clients?

      19             And if so, can you tell me how you decide

      20      someone is a specialist in one particular area?

      21             ANN CONROY:  That is not a term that -- we --

      22      it's not a Douglas Elliman term.

      23             If an agent uses that in their marketing,

      24      that's how they describe themselves, and it's

      25      probably because they know the community, and have


       1      been selling in the community for a long, long time,

       2      and probably have had good results in terms of

       3      listing and selling homes in that community.

       4             SENATOR KAPLAN:  Okay.

       5             So do you at all look at any of these

       6      marketings that your members do?

       7             Are they checked --

       8             ANN CONROY:  We actually have a marketing

       9      department that goes through everything.

      10             Anytime an agent puts an ad in the paper, in

      11      terms of a visual, and usually it's the local

      12      papers, we don't really do classified ads anymore,

      13      all those ads are screened first as to brand, as

      14      well as to content.

      15             And we work with all the local publications,

      16      and we have a list things that are allowed to be

      17      said and not allowed to be said.

      18             And unless an agent goes to a publication

      19      we're not aware of, then I would say that we have

      20      those guidelines in place currently.

      21             SENATOR KAPLAN:  Thank you.

      22             Is race ever a factor in deciding who's a

      23      specialist in that area?

      24             ANN CONROY:  No.

      25             SENATOR KAPLAN:  Okay.


       1             What do you think is the most effective way

       2      to monitor compliance with fair-housing laws for

       3      your industry?

       4             ANN CONROY:  Well, I think we're doing that.

       5             I think that we have to insist that the

       6      agents take their compliance classes.

       7             The managers in the field with the agents

       8      have to make sure that they conduct themselves in a

       9      professional manner.

      10             SENATOR KAPLAN:  Okay.

      11             You talked about strict guidelines that you

      12      have developed.

      13             Can you talk about a little bit of those

      14      guidelines?

      15             What has changed since 2020 -- June 20th,

      16      how your guidelines have changed?

      17             ANN CONROY:  Oh, we change -- we have --

      18      we've always had very strict guidelines in place and

      19      training in place.  That has been part of our DNA

      20      for a long, long time.

      21             But based on what we saw, and we changed

      22      the -- for example, I had mentioned it.  We --

      23      agents used to talk about the standards of schools.

      24             We tell not to talk about that anymore.  Tell

      25      the consumer that they really should go and look on


       1      their own.

       2             So we're careful about that.

       3             But we really have had, and it's

       4      [indiscernible].

       5             And we even sent you our training, and we

       6      sent you also our policies.

       7             We have really been on top of this for a

       8      very, very long time.

       9             SENATOR KAPLAN:  [Inaudible] --

      10             ANN CONROY:  And I think it's just constantly

      11      training the agents, making sure that they

      12      understand the law.

      13             You know, the law sometimes isn't as you

      14      intuitive to some people as it is to others.  And

      15      making sure that they understand the law.

      16             We used to use [simultaneous talking] --

      17             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you, Ms. Conroy.

      18             SENATOR KAPLAN:  I understand that, but

      19      I want to make sure we all also understand.

      20             After this story broke out, you have not

      21      fired anybody for any wrongdoing.

      22             Every member today that spoke talked about

      23      how disappoint -- that they welcomed the article,

      24      but how disappointed they were in being targeted.

      25             No one here talks about the testers.


       1             These testers, this is what they felt.  We

       2      have all of them on tape.

       3             And I think something from your office should

       4      be done, by taking into effect and account of what

       5      these testers have gone through.

       6             With that, I'm going to say, thank you.

       7             My time is up.

       8             Thank you, Chairman Skoufis.

       9             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you, Senator Kaplan.

      10             Before we get to Senator Krueger, I do want

      11      to ask Lisa Casabona to please unmute yourself, just

      12      so you can acknowledge that you are here and,

      13      effectively, a participant.

      14             We've asked now twice for you to unmute

      15      yourself and we haven't heard anything from you.

      16             So if you can please unmute yourself.

      17             ANN CONROY:  She's been texting us, and she's

      18      having technical difficulties.  She's been texting

      19      Jessica.

      20             So I don't know what her problems are.

      21             JESSICA ROSENBERG, ESQ.:  It looks like it's

      22      muted on there (indicating).

      23             Like, can they --

      24             ANN CONROY:  She has to unmute it.

      25             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  She would have to unmute


       1      it.

       2             If she's having technical difficulties, or in

       3      any other way is not able to participate, we may

       4      choose to follow up with her after this hearing.

       5             ANN CONROY:  I understand that.

       6             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  I did want to --

       7             ANN CONROY:  I understand that.

       8             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  -- thank you.

       9             So without further ado, Senator Krueger.

      10             SENATOR KRUGER:  Thank you very much.

      11             And I appreciate being here with all my

      12      colleagues and with the witnesses.

      13             And I will say I'm finding myself very

      14      disturbed here, on behalf of Douglas Elliman.

      15             And I guess I will direct it to Ms. Conroy

      16      since she's the senior person here.

      17             So we've read the "Newsday" articles.

      18             We know you have.

      19             We've heard the tapes.

      20             We know you have.

      21             All of your group today have testified they

      22      believe they were misrepresented in the article, and

      23      yet none of them can explain what they think their

      24      definition of "directing" or "misdirecting" people

      25      in housing is.


       1             So, it doesn't seem that they even understand

       2      what the issues are, even though they believe they

       3      were misrepresented.

       4             And now, months and months later, when

       5      Douglas Elliman is saying that they have trained and

       6      retrained, still none of them could define what

       7      "steering" is.

       8             They don't think they've seen it, they don't

       9      think they've done it, but they don't know what it

      10      is.

      11             So please explain to me, on behalf of

      12      Douglas Elliman, what it is you think you are

      13      training people to do, to ensure that they do not

      14      continue, whether they thought they were or not,

      15      these very disturbing patterns of housing

      16      discrimination in the work that they do.

      17             ANN CONROY:  I can only answer it as I have

      18      answered it.

      19             Our training is specific.  It was written by

      20      an attorney.  It is intense.  They have to pass

      21      tests many times.

      22             They very well know what "steering" is.

      23             Maybe they don't know how to articulate it to

      24      your satisfaction, but they know what "steering" is,

      25      and they know that it is completely against all


       1      fair-housing laws.

       2             So I would put our training up.

       3             I -- we sent you our training.

       4             I think that you can see that it is very

       5      comprehensive, and we have a zero-tolerance policy.

       6             If we thought these agents were steering or

       7      treating people differently, based on a whole

       8      conversation, not looking at snippets of a video,

       9      I have -- they would have been fired.

      10             We don't tolerate it.

      11             That is not who we are as a company, and we

      12      don't tolerate it.

      13             And so the "Newsday" article, as I said when

      14      I started, was very, very disturbing to us because

      15      of our stance against discrimination.  And we are a

      16      very diverse company.

      17             So I don't know how we could enhance our

      18      training any more than we've done; it's just that

      19      comprehensive.

      20             SENATOR KRUGER:  So I just heard you say

      21      that, and I believe that there was printed

      22      materials.  And I'm sure one of my colleagues have

      23      it and the staff have it, and I will happily take a

      24      look at it.

      25             But I just heard your three representatives


       1      say --

       2             Even though they were in the articles, so, in

       3      theory, they would have been participating in any of

       4      the retraining you were doing.

       5             -- they all said they don't even know what

       6      "steering" is or what it looks like.

       7             So I have to say --

       8             ANN CONROY:  I do not believe that's what

       9      they said.

      10             SENATOR KRUGER:  -- you have to go back to

      11      the drawing board for what the training ought to be.

      12             ANN CONROY:  I don't believe that's what they

      13      said, Senator.

      14             I think they said that they don't see in it

      15      their community or with the associates in their

      16      office or in the marketplace.  And they don't do it.

      17             So they all know what "steering" is.

      18             I mean, that's the first thing anybody learns

      19      in the first course you take to become an agent.

      20             So -- but they don't see it happening, and

      21      it's not visible to their eye in their community,

      22      and they don't do it.

      23             And I think that's what they said.

      24             SENATOR KRUGER:  Well, I think they went

      25      farther than that in saying, they weren't even sure,


       1      they wouldn't even know what it really looked like.

       2             And that seems to me to be impossible.

       3             My real point is, I believe, based on the

       4      testimony I've heard so far, just from this first

       5      panel, that people need to go back to the drawing

       6      board and revisit exactly what the definitions are,

       7      and how to make sure you are not crossing the line

       8      in your daily job performance.

       9             Because I suspect, very strongly, that if

      10      there was a follow-up set of tests in Long Island

      11      right now, we probably wouldn't see significant

      12      different outcomes from when "Newsday" was doing

      13      their initial evaluation.

      14             And that is the fundamental issue that

      15      I think concerns all of us in the state legislature.

      16             Thank you, Mr. Chair.

      17             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you, Senator Krueger.

      18             I'm going to come back for a quick set of

      19      follow-ups.

      20             Before I get to a clip that I want to share,

      21      Ms. Conroy, we're going to hear from a number of

      22      panels throughout this hearing:  Keller Williams of

      23      Greater Nassau, Charles Rutenberg Realty, RE/MAX,

      24      Coldwell Banker.

      25             We've received most, if not all, written


       1      comments from them, and so I've had a chance to

       2      review them.

       3             And I think to a person, including yourself,

       4      not a single agent has faced disciplinary actions,

       5      by the looks of it, and by, you know, your testimony

       6      the sound of it, and no one's been fired.

       7             Given the breadth of the "Newsday" expos�,

       8      would you agree that it would be remarkable, in the

       9      worst possible use of the word, that not a single

      10      agent faced disciplinary actions, potentially, from

      11      what was revealed?

      12             ANN CONROY:  At Douglas Elliman, I'll only

      13      talk to Douglas Elliman, and we really went through

      14      these videos and conversations, we did not see any

      15      violation of fair housing.

      16             So what would we discipline them for?

      17             I mean, there was no reason to discipline.

      18             We did not -- and we had attorneys look at

      19      it, for the very reason that, you know, we didn't

      20      want to be emotionally involved.

      21             We had outside counsel, not even our legal

      22      counsel.

      23             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Understood, yeah, and

      24      you've said that before.

      25             I hear you.


       1             If we can go to the [simultaneous talking] --

       2             ANN CONROY:  We wanted to make sure that they

       3      did not violate the laws.

       4             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  To that point --

       5             ANN CONROY:  And we were told --

       6             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  -- can we go to Judi Ross's

       7      clip, please?

       8                (Video clip playing, and transcribed as

       9        follows:)

      10             AGENT JUDI ROSS:  There's a few districts

      11      that I know I would, like, not -- like, I wouldn't

      12      look in those towns.

      13             THE TESTER:  Oh, okay.

      14             AGENT JUDI ROSS:  You know, like, Freeport

      15      and Baldwin, and Amityville, which is part of

      16      Massapequa schools, but it's just certain parts of

      17      Massapequa.

      18                (End of video clip and corresponding

      19        transcription.)

      20             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

      21             So -- and the message that was provided to

      22      the minority tester was very different, and, you

      23      know, certainly, that's why Ms. Ross is here.

      24             But my question is to Ms. Conroy.

      25             You know, it's been stated by you and others


       1      on this panel here, that because the testers' races

       2      weren't explicitly invoked, that, somehow, that

       3      itself means there was no steering taking place.

       4             That is like being in a supermarket, and a

       5      grocer comes over to a customer and says, Well,

       6      I know you're looking at oranges and plums.  You

       7      know, oranges, they're -- they didn't -- you know,

       8      they're not a good batch today.  I wouldn't buy any

       9      oranges, but I can't really tell you what you should

      10      buy.

      11             And, you know, they're not referring to

      12      anything beyond sort of, you know, their feeling

      13      about which way they should go.  They're not

      14      referring to the color of the orange or the color of

      15      the plum.  But it's very clear that they're steering

      16      the person to a particular item.

      17             And so are you -- after hearing that, do you

      18      feel that, just because the agent did not explicitly

      19      note, Hey, there are a lot of minorities in this

      20      school district, is that what it would take for you

      21      to believe that there was a violation, and that this

      22      was steering?

      23             ANN CONROY:  No.  That's why I said, we have

      24      since trained the agents not to discuss anything

      25      about school districts.  That it can be


       1      misconstrued.

       2             You know, you do not know what's in

       3      somebody's heart when they're speaking.

       4             But, obviously, if that was shown to me, just

       5      that clip, that would make me cringe, and that would

       6      be a violation.

       7             And I agree that that would be a violation.

       8             So we have changed our training, and we are

       9      making sure that they do not discuss the quality of

      10      the schools at all.

      11             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  And so -- so what -- you

      12      just noted, you know, looking at that clip, on its

      13      face, that's a violation.

      14             And so what -- what compelled you to not take

      15      action?

      16             What convinced you that it was not a

      17      violation?

      18             ANN CONROY:  Because that was a clip, and we

      19      discussed the whole picture.

      20             And based on the conversations that we had

      21      with the agents, we wanted to make sure that there

      22      was no violation.

      23             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  So what specifically

      24      persuaded you in this instance that it was not a

      25      violation?


       1             ANN CONROY:  Well, because I -- you know, I

       2      don't have all of the notes right now in front of me

       3      about the whole conversation and how it was done.

       4             But based on the whole experience with the

       5      testers, it did not appear to us, or to me

       6      personally, that there was a violation.

       7             That clip alone would certainly make

       8      anybody's hair go up on the back of their neck.

       9      That was obviously a very foolish thing to say.

      10             And we have since changed how we train our

      11      agents to talk about the quality of the schools.

      12             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

      13             I'll wrap up my questions.

      14             And I'll just share in my disappointment, and

      15      I suspect I will be repeating this over the course

      16      of this hearing, based on written testimony we've

      17      already received, that it is astonishing to me that,

      18      with everything that was revealed by "Newsday," and

      19      we are talking an enormous volume of testing that

      20      took place and agents that were on video, that it

      21      seems, you know, whether it's your firm or these

      22      others, that there was little to, in fact, probably

      23      no, disciplinary action that was taken in light of

      24      all this.

      25             I know Senator Kavanagh had some follow-up.


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Great.

       2             Thank you very much.

       3             I would just note, Senator Skoufis, your

       4      sound was breaking up a little bit toward the end

       5      there.  So, I mean, [indiscernible] further from the

       6      mic.

       7             Just a few follow-up questions.

       8             First of all, Ms. Rogers, how long have you

       9      been had a real-estate agent?

      10             I think you're on mute.

      11             DONNA ROGERS:  Yep.  Sorry about that.

      12             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  That's okay.

      13             DONNA ROGERS:  I have been an agent since

      14      2012.

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

      16             And you mentioned in your testimony that you

      17      learned, between the two testers, that making

      18      subjective comments about school districts is

      19      considered steering.

      20             Is that correct?

      21             DONNA ROGERS:  That is correct.  [Inaudible.]

      22             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  So you just -- you did not

      23      know that at the point that the first test -- that

      24      you were meeting with the first tester?

      25             DONNA ROGERS:  I didn't realize it.


       1             I didn't realized it.

       2             When I was speaking to the first tester, it

       3      was coming from personal experience.

       4             I lived in the district and I raised my

       5      daughter in the district.  And I also went to the

       6      district as well.

       7             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  I understand.

       8             So knowing what you know now, would you say

       9      that making comments about school districts to that

      10      first tester constituted steering?

      11             DONNA ROGERS:  I have not since discussed it,

      12      at all, with anybody.

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  And, again, recognizing

      14      that, you know, your test -- you -- you know, you

      15      testified that you had no intent, no

      16      [indiscernible] -- no ill-intent here at all --

      17             DONNA ROGERS:  Right.

      18             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- but would you -- based

      19      on what your understanding now of what constitutes

      20      steering, would you say that making those subjective

      21      comments about that school district to the first --

      22      to the first tester, before you got the subsequent

      23      training, based on what you now -- know now, would

      24      you say that -- would say that that constitutes

      25      steering?


       1             DONNA ROGERS:  I wouldn't say that it

       2      constitutes steering at all.  I don't think what

       3      I -- how I said it.

       4             I was just -- how I was speaking, pretty much

       5      from the heart, for the most part, and personal --

       6      again, personal experience.

       7             You know, but this is -- you know, in

       8      between, this is what I was told.  And I just avoid

       9      the conversation now.

      10             I just -- you know, that's why they put you

      11      into training.

      12             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  But [indiscernible] -- and

      13      part of our goal here is to understand the training,

      14      and how it works and how it's perceived.

      15             DONNA ROGERS:  Right.

      16             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  So your -- your

      17      understanding from the training is that, comments --

      18      whether they're from the heart or from your personal

      19      experience or from having gone to schools yourself,

      20      that comments about school districts, that, you

      21      know, "this is a school district to avoid,"

      22      constitutes steering, potentially, away from that

      23      district?

      24             DONNA ROGERS:  Well, if you're telling

      25      somebody to avoid a school district, I mean,


       1      depending on, what's your reasoning for it?

       2             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay, so you think it's

       3      the intent?

       4             If you -- if you want to tell somebody to

       5      avoid a school district because your personal

       6      experience tells them that would be a bad school

       7      district, your understanding, based on the

       8      training -- the current training that Ms. Conroy has

       9      mentioned, is that that's not -- that's not

      10      problematic?

      11             DONNA ROGERS:  Can you repeat that?

      12             I'm sorry.  Repeat that again?

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  If you -- your -- your --

      14      your understanding, as of today, is that if you tell

      15      a potential homebuyer that they should avoid a

      16      school district, that's okay if it comes from your

      17      personal experience of that school district, and

      18      [simultaneous talking] --

      19             DONNA ROGERS:  I wouldn't --

      20             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- your subjective

      21      [simultaneous talking] --

      22             DONNA ROGERS:  I wouldn't tell anybody to

      23      avoid a school district.

      24             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay, because that,

      25      potentially, violates the fair-housing law?


       1             DONNA ROGERS:  Apparently so, yeah.

       2             Yeah, I would never do it.

       3             I would never do it.

       4             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  That's helpful.

       5             Back to Ms. Conroy, briefly, you -- the

       6      interactions, you mentioned, were viewed by your

       7      attorneys.  But they were also viewed by several of

       8      the -- two of the foremost house -- experts on fair

       9      housing in the state, and perhaps in the country.

      10             And, you know, they came to the conclusion

      11      that these were very problematic interactions.

      12             One, a Mr. Robert Schwemm, said that:  One of

      13      them was strong evidence of steering, plus evidence

      14      of difference in treatment.  And that the agent's

      15      remarks to the White tester about school districts,

      16      where, quote, she won't look in those towns, like

      17      Freeport and Baldwin and Amityville, was not made to

      18      the Black tester.

      19             There -- you know, again, a number of

      20      comments, and you've read them.

      21             Why is your conclusion that -- different from

      22      what the experts in fair housing have concluded?

      23             ANN CONROY:  My conclusion is only different

      24      because we sat and spoke to the agent about the

      25      entire experience.  That they -- we didn't just see


       1      snippets.

       2             As I said, if you just see a snippet of these

       3      things, obviously, you can draw that conclusion.

       4      There is no doubt about it.

       5             When you sit with an agent and you talk to an

       6      agent, and you're comfortable that they are not

       7      discriminating against anybody, and that that was

       8      not their intent, then, of course, you wouldn't have

       9      disciplinary action against them.

      10             But a lot of the-- a lot of -- was --

      11      could -- was there [inaudible] taken out of context?

      12             No doubt about it.

      13             By the way, I believe that, Ms. Casabona,

      14      I just saw her come on.

      15             I'm sorry.  Go ahead.

      16             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay, so we'll -- we'll

      17      try to -- we'll try to [indiscernible] back on that.

      18             Just -- just to follow up once more, and you

      19      mentioned this during your responses to

      20      Senator Skoufis's questions, you've mentioned

      21      "intent," you've mentioned "what's in the heart."

      22             Is it possible, in your view, to violate the

      23      fair-housing laws without intending to discriminate?

      24             ANN CONROY:  Yes, it is.  Absolutely it is.

      25             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  So if the behavior, if,


       1      for example, it were common in your firm, for Asian

       2      homebuyers, to have a requirement that they get

       3      preapproval before they see listings, but that

       4      were not required of a White homebuyer,

       5      Mr. Helming [sic], in this case, if that -- if that

       6      were a pattern in your firm, you would view that as

       7      a violation of the fair-housing laws?

       8             ANN CONROY:  Absolutely I would.

       9             See, they have to be --

      10             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  And you would --

      11      you --

      12             ANN CONROY:  -- agents have to be consistent.

      13             So -- and every agent is different.

      14             We kind of tell agents that, you know, as you

      15      train upon the sales side -- let's forget about the

      16      discriminations -- on the sales side, you know, you

      17      don't want to waste the consumer's time, you don't

      18      want to waste the seller's time, you don't want to

      19      waste your own time, by showing homes to somebody

      20      who can't afford to buy it.

      21             So we kind of like that the agents ask for a

      22      preapproval, or they sit down with a mortgage

      23      person, to make sure that the people are

      24      mortgageable.

      25             When an agent does not do that consistently,


       1      then they get themselves into trouble, so then they

       2      shouldn't do it at all.

       3             So I absolutely agree with you.

       4             If you're going -- no matter who sits in

       5      front of you, if you have -- if you want somebody to

       6      make sure that they're mortgageable, that you're not

       7      wasting your time, their time, or the homeowner's

       8      time, showing their house to somebody who can't

       9      afford to buy it, obviously, that's a better sales

      10      practice.  And it's also, to me, a practice of

      11      ethics, you know.

      12             But -- but the truth is, that is definitely

      13      wrong, to allow a White person to see a house

      14      without a preapproval, but not a minority person.

      15             Obviously, that's blatant discrimination,

      16      I agree with that.

      17             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  So to just -- I'm

      18      going to, just in -- to respect the other senators,

      19      and also the many witnesses we have coming, just --

      20      I would just note that I have gotten the impression,

      21      based on your comments today, and I think

      22      Senator Skoufis is also alluding to this, a couple

      23      of times you've said things that suggested that it

      24      is, sort of, what is in the heart of the agent that

      25      matters; it is whether they intend to engage in


       1      discrimination.

       2             I would just note that, you know, if we're

       3      getting that impression from your official remarks

       4      here, you know, agents in your firm might be

       5      forgiven for getting that impression

       6      [indiscernible].

       7             ANN CONROY:  Well, I want to clarify that,

       8      please.

       9             It was based on why there wasn't disciplinary

      10      action.

      11             Obviously, I don't feel that way.

      12             But, why I wouldn't fire an agent?

      13             When we sat down with them, we were

      14      comfortable that they were not discriminating.

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Would you discipline --

      16             ANN CONROY:  So I absolutely agree that --

      17             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Would you discipline

      18      somebody for systematically violating the

      19      fair-housing law even if they did not intend --

      20             ANN CONROY:  Absolutely.

      21             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- any animus toward

      22      the -- toward any homebuyer?

      23             ANN CONROY:  Absolutely.

      24             I mean, we've been actually -- you know, you

      25      asked me how we've changed things.


       1             Beside telling them -- telling the agents in

       2      our training, not to talk about school districts, we

       3      also insist that they are consistent.  That,

       4      whatever they do, whether it's somebody going to an

       5      open house, or putting somebody in their car to show

       6      homes, that it's consistent.

       7             So we really made sure that they treat

       8      everybody the same, by writing down what they do,

       9      with the White person, with the minority.

      10             It shouldn't matter what somebody is, but

      11      they should be consistent in how they deal with the

      12      public.

      13             There's no doubt about it.

      14             And so we did learn that as well.

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  So if that's true, that

      16      would be welcomed.

      17             I would just note, as -- as -- as

      18      Senator Kaminsky noted, it may be hard for that

      19      message to get across when the stance is that,

      20      overall, nothing -- you know, nothing truly

      21      problematic happened here.

      22             And so, again, I just -- I would urge you to

      23      continue to, you know, think about that.

      24             And it is -- you know, it is disturbing that

      25      somebody, with, you know, sincere intentions, who's


       1      been an agent for a long time, did not get the

       2      message that you can't tell some people about school

       3      districts, and not others, without getting yourself

       4      in trouble.

       5             So I'm going to leave it there.

       6             But, again, thank you to all the witnesses

       7      and to my colleagues for this panel.

       8             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you,

       9      Senator Kavanagh.

      10             Senator Kevin Thomas.

      11             SENATOR THOMAS:  Since we're on the topic of

      12      school districts, I have a quick question for

      13      Judi Ross.

      14             In the tapes that we reviewed, you said

      15      something along the lines of, the Baldwin School

      16      District and the Massapequa School District.

      17             What's wrong with them, by the way?

      18             What's wrong with those school districts?

      19             JUDI ROSS:  Oh, no.  I was just -- you know,

      20      I was addressing the quality of the education.

      21             I -- you know, "Newsday" is the one, they

      22      actually have a school report card, which lists

      23      number of graduates per year, and gives you all the

      24      information.

      25             So --


       1             SENATOR THOMAS:  I mean, is it a coincidence

       2      that the only minority areas are the ones that you

       3      told the White tester about, but not any other

       4      school district?

       5             JUDI ROSS:  I just rattled off three, and

       6      those were the three that I know.  That -- the

       7      school -- my daughter is a teacher.  And I know when

       8      she was looking for jobs, you know.

       9             SENATOR THOMAS:  Ms. Ann Conroy, did you find

      10      anything wrong with that statement?

      11             ANN CONROY:  Which statement?  The original,

      12      or --

      13             SENATOR THOMAS:  What your agent just said

      14      [simultaneous talking] --

      15             ANN CONROY:  No, I think that -- I was trying

      16      to -- you know, when we talk about school districts,

      17      it's come to light now since "Newsday," that it is

      18      misconstrued as a racial comment.

      19             But every -- every -- and I try to explain

      20      it, and I don't think I communicated it well enough,

      21      that the standards of schools, it's usually a

      22      percentage of kids that go on to college, really

      23      goes to the value of the education in the school.

      24             And so those rankings are put out, you know,

      25      all the time.  And there's even something online,


       1      where people can go and find out the percentage of

       2      kids that go on to college.

       3             SENATOR THOMAS:  So, Ms. Conroy, do you

       4      actually use those "Newsday" rankings to train your

       5      agents?

       6             ANN CONROY:  Not anymore, not anymore.

       7             We don't anymore.

       8             But those are open to the public.

       9             And as I said before, the consumer -- I don't

      10      care if the consumer is White or a different ethnic

      11      background or race.  Every parent wants their kid to

      12      go to the best schools and get the best education.

      13             SENATOR THOMAS:  Okay, so quick question,

      14      quick question, because I know about the Baldwin

      15      School District.  Their graduation rate is

      16      97 percent.

      17             So what -- what's the problem there?

      18             Are you -- like, I don't get it.

      19             What's the problem?

      20             ANN CONROY:  No problem.

      21             Why would there be a problem?

      22             97 [simultaneous talking] --

      23             SENATOR THOMAS:  Because one of your

      24      agents --

      25             ANN CONROY:  -- I think [simultaneous


       1      talking] --

       2             SENATOR THOMAS:  -- was trying to steer a

       3      potential White homebuyer from that area.  That's

       4      why.

       5             ANN CONROY:  I don't know why anybody would

       6      do that; no, I don't.

       7             I mean, it's really about the quality of the

       8      schools.

       9             But, we're just not talking about it anymore

      10      because it can be misconstrued, as --

      11             SENATOR THOMAS:  She said "stay away."

      12             ANN CONROY:  -- I'm sorry?

      13             SENATOR THOMAS:  She said stay away from that

      14      school district.

      15             ANN CONROY:  She said stay away from that

      16      school district?

      17             SENATOR THOMAS:  Yeah.

      18             ANN CONROY:  I don't know -- I don't know

      19      why.  I don't know why she would say that.

      20             SENATOR THOMAS:  I mean, this is why

      21      supervision [indiscernible].

      22             ANN CONROY:  I think it's percentage --

      23      I think what parents ask -- I mean, if it's grammar

      24      school, obviously, you're not going to care about

      25      the percentage that go on to college.


       1             The high schools, that's what they care

       2      about, what percentage go on to college.

       3             That's the main thing a consumer asks.

       4                [Simultaneous talking by both parties.]

       5             ANN CONROY:  They just want to know that the

       6      kids have a good education.

       7             SENATOR THOMAS:  More -- more direct

       8      supervision than training is needed for your agents.

       9             ANN CONROY:  Absolutely.  I agree with you.

      10             SENATOR THOMAS:  All right?

      11             ANN CONROY:  I agree with you, because it's

      12      when, also, you know, sometimes you think you're

      13      doing the right thing, but you're really not

      14      communicating properly, as I did here today.  Right?

      15             So I want to make sure you communicate

      16      [indiscernible] --

      17             SENATOR THOMAS:  [Indiscernible], like you

      18      may have all the best intentions.  But when there is

      19      a real impact, where there's a real impact on the

      20      community, that's when you have to take action.

      21             You cannot just look at that as an isolated

      22      incident.

      23             As you can see, "Newsday" reports showed a

      24      divided Long Island, divided communities, because we

      25      keep thinking of this as something that is


       1      unintentional.

       2             It's not.

       3             ANN CONROY:  I agree with you.

       4             I do agree with you.

       5             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  All right.

       6             ANN CONROY:  You know, Lisa Casabona is on.

       7             Can -- can [indiscernible] --

       8             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Yes, we did see that, and

       9      we appreciate her demonstrating that she has been

      10      able to participate, and she has been here during

      11      the hearing.

      12             I think that is it for questions.

      13             I want to thank all of you for your

      14      testimony.

      15             You had the additional challenge of being the

      16      first panel, but I do appreciate it, we value it.

      17             And, you know, it will help us develop our

      18      legislative path forward, you know, as we move from

      19      today and the hearing.

      20             So, thank you.

      21             I will now pull up the second hearing -- or,

      22      second panel, rather, for the hearing.

      23             So on the second panel is:

      24             Richard Amato, from Keller Williams of

      25      Greater Nassau;


       1             As well as, Kevin, I don't know if I'm

       2      pronouncing this correctly, Geddie, who is formerly

       3      of Douglas Elliman, and is currently at a reality

       4      operation called Compass.

       5             Are they both here?

       6             OFF-CAMERA TECHNICIAN:  [Indiscernible]

       7      Geddie is here.  I just want to make sure that he's

       8      speaking -- he's unmuted.

       9             There we go.

      10             KEVIN GEDDIE:  I'm here.  Hello?

      11             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Hello, welcome.

      12             KEVIN GEDDIE:  Thank you.

      13             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  And do we have Mr. Amato?

      14             Yes.

      15             RICHARD AMATO:  Yes.  Good morning.

      16             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Very good.

      17             Good morning.

      18             If you can both please raise your right hand.

      19             Do you solemnly swear that you'll tell the

      20      truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

      21             KEVIN GEDDIE:  I do.

      22             RICHARD AMATO:  I do.

      23             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

      24             Do either of you or both of you have opening

      25      remarks?


       1             RICHARD AMATO:  Yes.

       2             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.  Mr. Amato, why don't

       3      you take it away.

       4             RICHARD AMATO:  Thank you, and good morning,

       5      Mr. Chairperson and the members of the committee.

       6             Thank you for having me today.

       7             My name is Richard Amato, and I am a broker

       8      in charge of Keller Williams Greater Nassau.

       9             Keller Williams Greater Nassau is an

      10      independently owned and operated franchise of

      11      Keller Williams Realty.

      12             I have been the broker of charge of

      13      Keller Williams Greater Nassau since 2014.

      14             I have been a licensed real-estate

      15      professional for nearly 20 years.

      16             Prior to my career in real estate, I was born

      17      and raised in Long Island City during the 1970s.

      18             I grew up in the Ravenswood housing

      19      projects in the '70s and the '80s, and my father

      20      still resides there.  I see him regularly.

      21             Ravenswood was one of the most diverse

      22      housing projects in the city.

      23             From this upbringing I learned to respect and

      24      appreciate the incredibly rich and diverse cultural

      25      backgrounds of my friends and family.


       1             I then proudly served the City of New York

       2      and the residents of New York City as a

       3      New York City police officer.

       4             I carried out my duties as a New York City

       5      police officer with great pride, and respect for

       6      each and every resident of the city that I serve.

       7             During my eight-year tenure as a

       8      New York City police officer, I encountered and

       9      served a diverse group of residents.

      10             I often encountered many New York City

      11      residents in tense and difficult situations from

      12      these encounters.

      13             I learned to treat all of those I came across

      14      with great respect and compassion.

      15             I quickly learned that prejudging in any

      16      situation could result in prejudice and bias in its

      17      highest form, and that false or improper assumptions

      18      based on stereotypes or superficial characteristics

      19      would only negatively impact my service to

      20      New York City and its residents.

      21             Both my work colleagues, and indeed my

      22      family, are incredibly diverse.

      23             As you can see, diversity and inclusions are

      24      ideals that I live by on a daily basis.

      25             Simply stated, the Senate should know that


       1      I would never allow discrimination or prejudice to

       2      be present in any organization that I lead or am

       3      part of.

       4             Moreover, I wanted to state on the record

       5      that a native New Yorker, I would never allow

       6      discrimination or racism of any kind in my

       7      professional life either.

       8             As it pertains to Keller Williams Greater

       9      Nassau, the "Newsday" article, "Long Island

      10      Divided," is just plain wrong.

      11             The "Newsday" allegation, as they pertain to

      12      Keller Williams Greater Nassau, are patently flawed

      13      and misguided investigation which clearly skewed in

      14      order to promote a better story for "Newsday".

      15             A full and fair and non-bias investigation of

      16      the facts regarding Keller Williams Greater Nassau

      17      will illustrate that we promote an atmosphere of

      18      non-discrimination and compliance with local, state,

      19      and federal fair-housing and other real-estate laws,

      20      and that our internal policies and procedures do not

      21      tolerate discrimination of any kind.

      22             Keller Williams has relationships with

      23      418 real-estate sales agents, all of whom are

      24      independent contractors.

      25             Responsible for running their own business,


       1      all the independent contractors are required to be

       2      licensed by the State of New York, which requires

       3      that they complete a 75-hour salesperson-qualifying

       4      education course -- [coughing] -- excuse me -- and

       5      pass a qualifying examination administered by the

       6      department of state.

       7             These agents must maintain their licenses,

       8      and are required to successfully complete a

       9      22 1/2-hour of approved continuing education every

      10      two years, including at least three hours of

      11      instruction pertaining to fair housing and/or

      12      discrimination in sales or rental of real property

      13      and interest in real property.

      14             Although these brokers are not employees of

      15      Keller Williams Greater Nassau, we carefully vet

      16      each sales agent to ensure that all their

      17      credentials are in compliance and with current

      18      New York State law.

      19             The Senate should know that my role as a

      20      broker in charge of Keller Williams Nassau, all the

      21      complaints [indiscernible] are taken very seriously,

      22      and are addressed in a timely fashion to assure

      23      proper compliance with all non-discrimination

      24      policies, as well with local, state, and federal

      25      law.


       1             Keller Williams agents are required to take

       2      the National Association of Realtors' Code of Ethics

       3      training, developed in accordance with the

       4      Fair Housing Act.

       5             Since I became the broker in charge of

       6      Keller Williams Greater Nassau, my office has not

       7      been subject to any compliant regarding

       8      discrimination, nor violations of the Fair Housing

       9      Act.

      10             Thank you for allowing me to make this

      11      statement, and giving me the opportunity to speak

      12      today.

      13             Thank you.

      14             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

      15             Mr. Geddie.

      16             KEVIN GEDDIE:  Yep.

      17             Thank you for asking me to provide testimony

      18      in this important investigation into fair housing

      19      and anti-discrimination on Long Island.

      20             Like all decent Americans, I detest

      21      prejudicial treatment of people based on the color

      22      of their skin, their ethnicity, or other irrelevant

      23      characteristics.

      24             I've always sought to do the right thing in

      25      my chosen profession as a real-estate agent.


       1             By way of background:  I'm a native of

       2      Sag Harbor.  I've worked in real-estate sales on the

       3      East End for more than five years, and I've helped a

       4      diverse array of clients buy homes, and I expect to

       5      continue to do so for many years to come.

       6             As you are aware, I was the subject of a

       7      fair-housing test in 2016, one in August by an

       8      African-American tester and one in October by a

       9      White tester, as part of a "Newsday" project that

      10      was published a few years later in 2019.

      11             That report suggests that I may have violated

      12      fair-housing federal, or New York fair-housing laws.

      13             Nothing could be further from the truth.

      14             Indeed, I'm deeply troubled by that

      15      suggestion, which is not consistent with my values

      16      and the way I act in my professional and personal

      17      lives.

      18             But I am, more importantly, for the Senate's

      19      purposes, it's also inconsistent with what we can

      20      see and what we can hear on the videos and the

      21      interactions themselves, and with the listings

      22      I actually I provided.

      23             In each of the tests I provided a similar

      24      overview, a geography of The Hamptons, and my own

      25      background growing up in the area.


       1             I was equally attentive and friendly to

       2      both of the testers.  In fact, I engaged with more

       3      follow-up with the African-American tester than

       4      I did with the White tester, which "Newsday" report

       5      neglects to mention.

       6             The "Newsday" article suggests that I engaged

       7      in steering, based on the distribution of listings

       8      that I provided to the testers and a favorable

       9      comment that I made about the Hispanic population in

      10      Springs.

      11             This suggestion is absolutely wrong.

      12             In the first place, I was surprised to hear

      13      that these two potential clients were part of the

      14      same test, because they said very different things

      15      to me about what they were looking for.

      16             As one example, each tester anchored herself

      17      to a particular area, at least as a starting point:

      18      The African-American tester to the Springs in

      19      East Hampton.  The White tester to South Hampton.

      20             In my listings reflected those preferences.

      21             Drawing any conclusion from this combination

      22      of clients who presented very different scenarios

      23      would be fundamentally unfair.

      24             But maybe more importantly, if this body

      25      takes a closer look at the census tracts for the


       1      listings I provided, you will see the minor

       2      differences in demographic distributions of listings

       3      I provided were not statistically significant, which

       4      I understand is a factor under the federal housing

       5      law -- sorry -- under the federal law for

       6      discrimination.

       7             "Newsday" suggested steering, because

       8      I listed -- because the listings I provided to the

       9      African-American tester were in census tracts that

      10      are 75 percent White, and the listings I provided to

      11      the White tester were in census tracts that are

      12      83 percent White; 8 percent difference.

      13             The "Newsday" article doesn't even try to

      14      claim that there's minor difference is statistically

      15      significant, and it is likely because the areas each

      16      of the testers mentioned to me as our starting

      17      points.

      18             Finally, I want to address the statement in

      19      the "Newsday" article about:  The Hispanic community

      20      had taken over the Northwest Woods.

      21             Although I acknowledge some clumsiness in my

      22      statement, it should be obvious, even to a casual

      23      listener, that this reference, in context, does not

      24      reflect discrimination.  Far from it.

      25             Specifically, I said, that, "The growth in


       1      the Hispanic community is great because we have a

       2      lot more kids now."

       3             What I said about the African-American --

       4      what I said to the African-American was similar,

       5      about East Hampton:  It's a bit overpopulated, but a

       6      great education.

       7             Each comment was intended to be positive.

       8      I neither felt nor expressed anything derogatory.

       9             It is a great honor and pleasure for me to

      10      serve the community I grew up in, as a real-estate

      11      agent.

      12             As I have said, I appreciate the folks of

      13      this hearing on fair-housing laws and

      14      anti-discrimination principles, but, respectfully,

      15      I submit that the "Newsday" article suggests that

      16      I failed to comply with those laws or apply those

      17      principles is utterly unfounded.

      18             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you for your

      19      testimony.

      20             I'd like to start with Mr. Amato.

      21             And as a reminder, actually first to my

      22      colleagues, if you do with to ask questions, please

      23      just hit the "Raise Hand" function within the Zoom.

      24             Mr. Amato, both in your testimony that you

      25      shared, as well as in your written statement that


       1      you sent to us earlier, you're very critical of

       2      "Newsday's" investigation.

       3             I would suggest that, of all the brokers and

       4      CEOs that we have written testimony from, you're

       5      probably the most critical of "Newsday's" expos�.

       6             May I first ask, just as sort of a baseline

       7      here, Aminta Abarca, Le-Ann Vicquery,

       8      Rosemary Marando, were they -- were they agents

       9      within your firm at the time of "Newsday's" testing?

      10             RICHARD AMATO:  No, sir.  Just Aminta

      11      [simultaneous talking] --

      12             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Just Aminta?

      13             RICHARD AMATO:  Yes, sir.

      14             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

      15             The others have no association --

      16             RICHARD AMATO:  I don't know them.

      17             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  -- with Keller Williams?

      18             RICHARD AMATO:  No, none of them.

      19             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  So -- so let's talk about

      20      Aminta, then.

      21             She -- you know, she seemed to, at least to a

      22      layperson like myself, was, you know, messaging and

      23      requiring sort of different prerequisites of the

      24      minority tester versus the White tester that

      25      "Newsday" sent to her, where the African-American


       1      tester was required to sign an exclusive agreement

       2      before being shown any homes, whereas the White

       3      tester was not required to sign that same agreement

       4      and was, you know, provided a tour, without

       5      exclusivity.

       6             What do you make of that?

       7             Why is that not -- why is that not treating

       8      one type of client differently than another that

       9      looks differently?

      10             RICHARD AMATO:  Great question, and thank you

      11      for asking that.

      12             So the White tester came in November of

      13      2016 -- okay? -- and went into the [indiscernible],

      14      and entered in, and explained everything.  And

      15      Aminta worked with him for, I believe it was

      16      45 minutes.  And she did not ask for a signed

      17      disclose -- brokerage -- a buyer brokerage.

      18             Tester 2, at the next time, came in,

      19      I believe it was two or three months later, and

      20      asked.

      21             Now, if you say to me, Mr. Amato, if

      22      Tester 2 and test -- came in a week, or a couple

      23      days, after the fact, yes, I would have had a

      24      problem with that.

      25             But since it was a three-month period -- or,


       1      two- to three-month period in lag time, in that

       2      time, several things happened.

       3             Aminta went and took training on a buyer

       4      brokerage.

       5             Aminta also had a tough time with age -- with

       6      buyers going out and buying properties.

       7             And she felt that a lot of buyers, including

       8      Tester 1, was wasting her time.

       9             So she did feel desperate enough to sit there

      10      and ask for a buyer brokerage so she wouldn't waste

      11      her time.

      12             She actually wanted to work with that buyer,

      13      to give him the most attention and work with him.

      14             So that's what that buyer brokerage is for.

      15             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  What is your firm's policy

      16      on making this sort of a requirement?

      17             RICHARD AMATO:  We don't have a policy on

      18      that.

      19             The agents can work -- my company policy is,

      20      is that the business is okay for Aminta, what she

      21      chose to use.

      22             She can use a buyer brokerage, and you can

      23      choose not to.  You can choose to work with the

      24      seller.

      25             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Do you agree you have to be


       1      at least consistent?  You can't --

       2             RICHARD AMATO:  I believe -- yes, I agree you

       3      do; you should be consistent, sir.  I do believe

       4      that.

       5             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

       6             And what steps have you taken to make sure

       7      that the rest of your agents are consistent in light

       8      of what was revealed?

       9             RICHARD AMATO:  Another great question.

      10             And what we have done since this, we have

      11      implemented training.

      12             I've always implemented training on this.

      13      I've always worked with it.

      14             My offices are very diverse, so I work with

      15      all different people and organizations, and

      16      everywhere we come from.

      17             And what I choose to do is, on this specific

      18      situation, we took that tape, and I went to several

      19      agents in my office, and I went over it with them,

      20      and I said, What would we do different here?

      21             And I did it individually, I worked with them

      22      individually, to see:

      23             What would do you do differently?

      24             What would do you do differently?

      25             What would do you do differently?


       1             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  How many agents are under

       2      your license?

       3             RICHARD AMATO:  418 in Greater Nassau.

       4             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  "418," is that what you

       5      said?

       6             RICHARD AMATO:  Yes, sir --

       7             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Yep.

       8             RICHARD AMATO:  -- at the current time.

       9             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  And can you reasonably

      10      assure us that, you know, this is not a matter of

      11      practice with those 418 agents?

      12             RICHARD AMATO:  I'm sorry?

      13             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Can you reasonably assure

      14      us that this is not happening with other agents?

      15             RICHARD AMATO:  I believe it's not happening

      16      with other agents, sir.

      17                [Simultaneous talking by both parties.]

      18             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.  And so short of

      19      showing this clip to your other 418 agents, what

      20      steps have you taken to actually try and examine

      21      whether they have participated in this kind of

      22      behavior?

      23             Have you done anything that --

      24             RICHARD AMATO:  Have -- that they have?

      25             We put in -- so we always require them, take


       1      the training.  We make sure we follow up on them, to

       2      make sure that they go to the New York State

       3      training and get that -- you know, their license.

       4      In every two years, we make sure that 22 1/2 hours

       5      is done.

       6             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  You feel your obligation is

       7      just to ensure --

       8             RICHARD AMATO:  No, no, no.

       9             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  -- that they take the

      10      training?

      11             RICHARD AMATO:  No, sir.

      12             We bring in special speakers that work with

      13      fair housing.

      14             I have in my -- one of the New York City

      15      offices, I bring in compliance officers to talk to

      16      the agents on a daily basis.

      17             We do daily Zoom calls on this.

      18             And we've always done it.  It's something

      19      we've always done.

      20             We're a company that believe it's

      21      agent-centric.  We help each other, and we go over

      22      things together.  We sit there and work with each

      23      other, and we consistently talk about certain

      24      situations [simultaneous talking] --

      25             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.  My time is up.


       1             Just a yes-or-no answer to this last

       2      question:

       3             Do I believe that any of your other

       4      417 agents, in, you know, let's say, recent history

       5      here, the past year or two years, has provided

       6      inconsistent requirements, like the one we saw with

       7      [inaudible].

       8             RICHARD AMATO:  I don't believe so, but I do

       9      want to say that I will go back and check, to make

      10      sure.

      11             But as of now, I really do not believe so.

      12             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  How -- how -- how will you

      13      go back -- what does that mean, "go back"

      14      [simultaneous talking] --

      15             RICHARD AMATO:  I'll go back and talk to

      16      every -- I go back -- I have a daily conversation

      17      with all of my agents.  I try to keep an open

      18      dialogue with every single one of my agents.  And

      19      I talk to them.

      20             I like to get involved with every single

      21      agent that works for me.

      22             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  But I can't imagine anyone

      23      is going to admit to you, yeah, I broke the

      24      fair-housing laws.

      25             I mean --


       1             RICHARD AMATO:  Well, we --

       2             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  -- so you're taking their

       3      word on face value.  That's your --

       4             RICHARD AMATO:  I believe I have to take

       5      their word on face value, because I've never gotten

       6      a complaint from it.  So I would have to take it.

       7             And, again, when we role play these on a

       8      daily basis, we're consistently talking about it,

       9      I would get that answer from them while they were

      10      talking to me.

      11             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  My time is up, out of

      12      respect for my colleagues.

      13             And I'll just make the comment that, you

      14      know, it's hard for someone to lodge a complaint,

      15      because they would have no idea whether how they're

      16      being treated is inconsistent.

      17             They have no idea how the client that comes

      18      in after them is being treated.

      19             And so they have no idea to make a complaint,

      20      hey, you did this for me, but you didn't do it for

      21      the next guy.

      22             They don't know anything about the next guy.

      23             So I would encourage you, you know, to -- to,

      24      perhaps, not just take their word on face value,

      25      because, you know, people would not know to make


       1      that sort of complaint.

       2             RICHARD AMATO:  I'll check into it.

       3             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Senator -- I'll go to

       4      Senator Thomas.

       5             SENATOR THOMAS:  Thank you, Senator Skoufis.

       6             I have a quick question for Richard Amato.

       7             As a broker who has been licensed for over

       8      20 years, you were previously exempt from completing

       9      CE requirements; is that correct?

      10             RICHARD AMATO:  No, sir.

      11             No, sir, I wasn't.  I just missed that

      12      deadline.

      13             SENATOR THOMAS:  You just missed the

      14      deadline?

      15             RICHARD AMATO:  Yes, sir.

      16             SENATOR THOMAS:  Do you think that the

      17      grandfather clause contributed to poor supervision

      18      by some longstanding licensees of their staff?

      19             RICHARD AMATO:  That is a very good question,

      20      and I never thought of that.  But, yeah, I could see

      21      that being possible.

      22             That's a very good question.

      23             I could see that possibly being true.

      24             SENATOR THOMAS:  Okay.

      25             Next couple of questions is for Mr. Geddie?


       1             KEVIN GEDDIE:  Yes.

       2             SENATOR THOMAS:  All right.

       3             In the "Newsday" recording, you had said to

       4      the White tester that Hispanics had taken over an

       5      area.

       6             Do you know that mentioning the demographic

       7      makeup of a neighborhood is prohibited?

       8             KEVIN GEDDIE:  It was such a clumsy way of

       9      approaching the situation.  I did not know it at the

      10      time.  I was two years in the industry and still

      11      learning to be the best agent I could be.

      12             I -- looking back at everything, I would

      13      definitely reword any way of that possible.

      14             SENATOR THOMAS:  Now, like, during your

      15      training phase, how much supervision were you

      16      getting?

      17             KEVIN GEDDIE:  I was formerly with

      18      Douglas Elliman.

      19             As the lady had mentioned before, there were

      20      classes, there were group classes.  They tried to

      21      make you go as much as possible.

      22             I tried go as much as possible.

      23             SENATOR THOMAS:  Uh-huh?

      24             KEVIN GEDDIE:  You can never be, you know,

      25      overeducated.  So I feel more is always better.


       1             SENATOR THOMAS:  But is there, like, someone

       2      that would walk around with you during a potential

       3      showing of a house, or anything like that?

       4             KEVIN GEDDIE:  No, sir.

       5             What would happen was, they would put you in

       6      a room with an attorney that they hired, that would

       7      try to beat all the rules of federal fair housing

       8      into your head.

       9             And it was my job to learn it as muchly -- as

      10      much and as quickly as possible.

      11             I admit being new into the business, there's

      12      no excuse.  But, with time, I want to perfect it.

      13             SENATOR THOMAS:  All right, so the training

      14      was inadequate, from what I'm hearing from you?

      15             That you -- there was some attorney trying to

      16      beat down all the rules and regulations into your

      17      head; it just was not clicking.

      18             And I see that as a pattern with a lot of

      19      these agents.  These classes are just not adequate.

      20             Back to Mr. Amato, did you hear the answer

      21      that Mr. Geddie just gave about the training

      22      aspect?

      23             RICHARD AMATO:  You were coming in and out.

      24             SENATOR THOMAS:  Did you --

      25             RICHARD AMATO:  It's coming in and out, your


       1      questions.

       2             SENATOR THOMAS:  Did you hear the answer

       3      Mr. Geddie --

       4             RICHARD AMATO:  I didn't hear the full

       5      answer, sir, no.  I couldn't [simultaneous

       6      talking] --

       7             SENATOR THOMAS:  All right.

       8             So I had asked him about his training prior

       9      to him showing houses.

      10             And he basically said, he was in a room with

      11      an attorney that was just beating rules and

      12      regulations into his head.

      13             And that's the kind of training that he

      14      received.

      15             And I'm assuming that's how several of your

      16      agents are trained as well.

      17             I believe, again, there is a pattern here,

      18      where, you know, inadequate training is given.  You

      19      know, they perform the way they do, and then they

      20      get caught.

      21             Do you have any plans of changing the way you

      22      guys train these agents?

      23             Because they need more supervision.

      24             RICHARD AMATO:  I do agree with you.

      25             I do believe that, and I want to be a part of


       1      any solution that we -- that I could be, and to help

       2      in change the policies and the procedures and the

       3      training.

       4             I do agree with you.

       5             I'm not in every training class, so I can't

       6      tell you how it was done.

       7             If he -- if Kevin is stating that, then I'm

       8      going to take his word on it, too, that he has taken

       9      it, because that's what he just stated.

      10             And, yes, I think that needs to be changed.

      11             SENATOR THOMAS:  And do you believe maybe

      12      having someone walk with him, like, someone who's

      13      licensed walk with him, while he shows a house, so

      14      that they can critique how he talks to a potential

      15      homebuyer, maybe that should be in the training?

      16             RICHARD AMATO:  So we do have that.

      17             We have buddy programs, where senior agents

      18      do go out with newer agents; yes, sir.

      19             [Simultaneous talking] --

      20             SENATOR THOMAS:  Okay.  Do you know how often

      21      that's done, though?

      22             RICHARD AMATO:  It's done quite often.

      23             It's done quite often.  For newer agents that

      24      join the company, we guide them to that.

      25             We do.


       1             It's not mandatory, you know, sir, but we do

       2      encourage the fact that they should do that because

       3      they want to learn.

       4             SENATOR THOMAS:  Maybe we can make that

       5      mandatory, going forward --

       6             RICHARD AMATO:  We can definitely look at

       7      that.

       8             SENATOR THOMAS:  -- so that we --

       9             All right.

      10             Thank you so much.

      11             RICHARD AMATO:  Thank you, sir.

      12             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Senator Kavanagh.

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you,

      14      Senator Skoufis.

      15             So, Mr. Geddie, Senator Thomas covered this

      16      a little bit, but just for the record, when you were

      17      speaking with the White tester, you described the

      18      ethnic makeup of Springs, as follows, you said:

      19             "What you see a lot more in East Hampton is

      20      the Hispanic community came in, and they really took

      21      over Springs and Northwest Woods area, which is

      22      great, because we have a lot more kids now.  So

      23      their high school is drastically bigger than

      24      South Hampton."

      25             Talking with the Black tester, Mr. Hackett,


       1      about the same high school, you said, only, "East

       2      Hampton is really, really -- I don't know how to

       3      say -- it's overpopulated, I feel like."

       4             Can you -- you said -- you mentioned already

       5      that you felt that was a clumsy way of describing

       6      the school district.

       7             Can you -- can you explain what -- what it is

       8      that you were trying to express, even if it was

       9      clumsy?

      10             KEVIN GEDDIE:  Certainly.

      11             And if I could just explain my full sentence,

      12      which was, "It's a bit overcrowded, but still a

      13      great education."

      14             Both instances were only meant to be

      15      positive.  Nothing was meant to deter or steer

      16      someone from going to either location.

      17             I grew up in the area.

      18             I was vomiting of the mouth, just trying to

      19      talk, and, I admit, very clumsy.

      20             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  And, obviously, a

      21      lot of the training, a lot of the goal of training,

      22      is to make sure agents are careful in the way they

      23      speak about these things.

      24             But you subsequently didn't show the White

      25      tester any homes in that area.  Is that correct?


       1             KEVIN GEDDIE:  I would have loved to.

       2             She anchored herself to South Hampton.

       3             Her mother was in a rehabilitation center in

       4      South Hampton.

       5             She was commuting out from the city.  There's

       6      an hour-and-a-half difference, depending on traffic.

       7             It made more sense for her to be closer to

       8      South Hampton from what she and I understood.

       9             I asked her to look at everything.

      10             But when you send someone 10 to 15, 20,

      11      listings, it can become blurry.

      12             She admitted:  Let's start with five houses.

      13      We'll start there, we'll look elsewhere afterwards.

      14             It's more of a check off the boxes as you go.

      15             It wasn't meant to stop there.

      16             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

      17             And you left Douglas Elliman and began

      18      working with Compass in 2000 -- January of 2018?

      19             KEVIN GEDDIE:  Yes, sir.

      20             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Subsequent to these

      21      incidents?

      22             KEVIN GEDDIE:  Oh, no, sir.

      23             When -- I was already happily housed at

      24      Compass when I found out that this had happened.

      25             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Right, but the actual


       1      events that took place were when were you at

       2      Douglas Elliman?

       3             KEVIN GEDDIE:  Yes, sir.

       4             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Right.

       5             Douglas Elliman's representative, a lawyer,

       6      Mr. Rosenberg, said that your remarks, I'm going

       7      to quote here again, "are inconsistent with

       8      Douglas Elliman policies and applicable law, and are

       9      not tolerated.  Had Douglas Elliman been informed of

      10      such remarks at the time they were made,

      11      Douglas Elliman would have taken immediate and

      12      appropriate corrective disciplinary action."

      13             I would just note that this is pretty

      14      remarkable, given that Douglas Elliman just

      15      testified that they have disciplined no one as a

      16      result of this investigation.

      17             Are you surprised that Douglas Elliman is

      18      singling you out as a person who should have been

      19      disciplined, as the only person who is not with

      20      their firm, as they're making that decision?

      21             KEVIN GEDDIE:  If I could answer this

      22      question to the best of my ability:

      23             I admit that I was clumsy.

      24             What Douglas Elliman would have done with me

      25      would have been their own decision to make with me.


       1             I can't speculate what they would have done

       2      with me, but I do find it highly ironic what she

       3      just said before.

       4             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

       5             And you -- you, presumably, have had a chance

       6      to review the materials on other Douglas Elliman

       7      agents since the investigation came out?

       8             KEVIN GEDDIE:  It was a very lengthy article,

       9      as we all are aware.

      10             And I did my best to dissect it as much as

      11      possible and really learn more about it.

      12             To be honest, my main focus was what

      13      I partook in that whole entire investigation, and

      14      not so much focused on other colleagues.

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

      16             Do you -- so based on what you know now, you

      17      know, the experts on fair housing reviewed this --

      18      reviewed these interactions.

      19             A Mr. -- you know -- oh, sorry.

      20             Mr. -- Mr. Freiberg said that your comments

      21      about span -- "Hispanics have been taken over the

      22      area, and recommendations of houses only in that

      23      area to Mr. Hackett."

      24             And the fact that you provided listings only

      25      to Olsen Kopp [ph.] in Sag Harbor, and said,


       1      [indiscernible] after praising the schools, that

       2      conduct indicates differential treatment.

       3             Do you accept that conclusion at this point?

       4             KEVIN GEDDIE:  No, sir, I do not.

       5             I detest completely, whereas both individuals

       6      anchor themselves to two completely different areas.

       7             And as a larger scale, if you look at

       8      South Hampton to East Hampton, I almost consider it

       9      as New York to, you know, Los Angeles.  It's a wide

      10      in-between, and I don't try to make someone go the

      11      other way unless they tell me they want to be there.

      12             Although, I did reiterate, please, let's look

      13      at everything on the market to make sure you're

      14      getting the best deal.

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Do you -- you concede at

      16      this point that making comments about a certain

      17      ethnic group taking over a neighborhood is

      18      prohibited under fair-housing law?

      19             KEVIN GEDDIE:  It was such a clumsy way to

      20      ever put it.  It was never intended to ever deter or

      21      talk badly about someone.

      22             It was, in my opinion, something that was

      23      great.

      24             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  So just -- just to

      25      conclude, and we had this conversation


       1      [indiscernible], you know, the fact of what you do

       2      in the last panel as well, but, making that comment,

       3      making comment about the ethnic composition, based

       4      on your understanding now and the training you've

       5      had since that time, which was a number of years

       6      ago, you understand, making a comment about the

       7      ethnic composition of a community changing, and a

       8      particular ethnicity taking over a neighborhood, you

       9      understand making that comment as a violation of the

      10      fair-housing law at this point?

      11             KEVIN GEDDIE:  I was not [inaudible].

      12             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Even if it was inadvertent

      13      or unintentional?

      14             KEVIN GEDDIE:  I was not aware of that.

      15             And, with intention or not intention, I was

      16      not aware of that.

      17             I continue to grow and learn as much as

      18      possible, and thank you for bringing that up.

      19             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  But your understanding

      20      today is that that's not a comment you should make?

      21             KEVIN GEDDIE:  It should definitely not be a

      22      comment.  There's nothing that should be worded that

      23      way.

      24             It was clumsy.  I apologize.

      25             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  I appreciate that.


       1             Thank you.

       2             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay, thank you,

       3      Senator Kavanagh.

       4             Next up is Senator Kaminsky.

       5             SENATOR KAMINSKY:  Mr. Geddie, when you said

       6      "Hispanics had taken over," what did you mean?

       7             KEVIN GEDDIE:  To be honest with you,

       8      I didn't mean anything by it.  I don't know what

       9      I meant.  It was diarrhea of the mouth.

      10             I just was saying that, you know, it's a

      11      great community.  It used to be vacant there.

      12      Whatever families move there, brought kids, and it's

      13      a thriving community now.

      14             SENATOR KAMINSKY:  That's what you meant by

      15      that comment, that you were giving positive

      16      attributes to the community by saying Hispanics had

      17      taken over?

      18             KEVIN GEDDIE:  Yes, sir.  I truly believe it

      19      was only the best intention.

      20             It was worded poorly.

      21             SENATOR KAMINSKY:  Okay.

      22             On behalf of people with brains everywhere,

      23      I want to let you know how ridiculous that sounds.

      24             When someone says, the Jews took over a

      25      community, X took over a community, it's not meant


       1      in a positive way.

       2             You know that.

       3             What they're trying to say is, there's an

       4      ethnic group in this neighborhood.  They're there.

       5      You are not part of that ethnic group, so you better

       6      be careful.  Probably isn't a place you want to

       7      live.

       8             Do you deny that obvious common

       9      centriality [ph.]?

      10             KEVIN GEDDIE:  I don't feel that way.

      11             SENATOR KAMINSKY:  Okay, well, I think the

      12      comments that you said on tape when you didn't know

      13      people were listening to your words are the best --

      14      the best inkling we have, the best evidence we have,

      15      of who you really are.

      16             And when you said Hispanics had taken over an

      17      area, it said everything we need to know about what

      18      actually really takes place in the real-estate

      19      world, what you do when you are out there operating

      20      when you don't think people are listening.

      21             And it's actions exactly like that that

      22      have caused the current status of our divided

      23      Long Island.

      24             So I think you may have chosen the wrong

      25      industry.


       1             I think were you caught red-handed.

       2             And I think there's nothing else to say,

       3      other than, that the lack of people accepting

       4      responsibility, or the industry doing anything about

       5      it, during this hearing is astounding.

       6             Any hope that we might have had that the

       7      industry would decide that it's reached a critical

       8      inflection point, and wants to better itself, has

       9      just completely been eviscerated by this hearing.

      10             Everyone is doing these (indicating), blaming

      11      the other person.

      12             Douglas Elliman is throwing you under the bus

      13      when you left there, even though their people did

      14      things just as bad that they won't acknowledge

      15      because they're still under their license.

      16             And you're out there saying Hispanics took

      17      over a neighborhood, but you don't even know what

      18      you were saying.

      19             It was just diarrhea of the mouth.  I don't

      20      even know what I say half the time.  I mean, you

      21      know, words just come out of my brain.  Who knows

      22      who put them there.

      23             Our society demands better.  We deserve more

      24      accountability.

      25             And what we have heard today is just


       1      astounding, and it means that we've got work to do;

       2      that it's going to take real government oversight,

       3      action, legislation, penalties, to change things

       4      here.

       5             And I'm sorry, Mr. Geddie, that you were the

       6      one who got caught doing it, but caught is what you

       7      were.

       8             Thank you, Chairman Skoufis.

       9             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you,

      10      Senator Kaminsky.

      11             Next is Senator Kaplan.

      12             SENATOR KAPLAN:  Thank you, Chairman.

      13             So this is a question for either one of you.

      14             Many of the agencies' heads testifying here

      15      today have said there was no discriminatory intent

      16      on their conduct.

      17             The sales agents, even after receiving

      18      training, still testified that they don't believe

      19      their conduct was discriminatory.

      20             My question is:

      21             Since the "Newsday" investigation clearly

      22      shows we continue to have a problem, we need to do

      23      better, does your new-and-improved training include

      24      training on "implicit bias," which is identified as

      25      attitudes or stereotypes that affect our


       1      understanding, actions, and decisions in our

       2      unconscious manner?

       3             Some of the bias shown by your agents in the

       4      video could potentially be described as having been

       5      done in an unconscious manner.

       6             Given the repeated denials of discriminatory

       7      intent, I'd like to know, what measures have you

       8      taken to counter this glaring problem?

       9             RICHARD AMATO:  I'd like to answer that.

      10             I'm open to definitely looking into that, and

      11      going further with it.

      12             And what we have taken, what we have done is,

      13      again, we have daily Zoom calls right now.  And,

      14      unfortunately, we can't have in-person, you know, to

      15      a big crowd.

      16             But we're having daily Zoom calls, to get to

      17      know each other, to get to know and make sure that

      18      everything is being done the right way, and getting

      19      across.

      20             SENATOR KAPLAN:  Okay.

      21             Do you talk about it; do you talk about

      22      unconscious manner of bias?

      23             RICHARD AMATO:  Absolutely, at least I hope

      24      I do.

      25             And I -- you know, Senator, again, I've


       1      always been like this; I've always tried to be fair

       2      in life with everybody.

       3             So I talk about it on a daily basis.

       4             SENATOR KAPLAN:  I appreciate that.

       5             I feel -- I understand, and I listened to

       6      your testimonies, and I see that you clearly don't

       7      see how this being translated.

       8             But I also understand, and see the testers

       9      and what they have gone through.

      10             So there has to be an effort here made to

      11      make sure that we are not making unconscious

      12      discriminatory decisions or comments, and that's

      13      going to come from the top up, all the way to every

      14      member that you represent.

      15             RICHARD AMATO:  I was just going to say that

      16      I believe that New York State would need to require

      17      something like that.

      18             SENATOR KAPLAN:  Thank you.

      19             Thank you, Chairman.

      20             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

      21             And unless my fellow chairs have additional

      22      questions, I believe that is all we have.

      23             Senator Kavanagh, do you have anything more?

      24             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  No, I'm good.

      25             Thank you very much.


       1             Just to, again, thank the witnesses for

       2      appearing today.

       3             KEVIN GEDDIE:  Thank you.

       4             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Very good.

       5             Thanks to you both.

       6             And we'll now move on to the third panel.

       7             RICHARD AMATO:  Thank you.

       8             Have a blessed day.

       9             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Next up, we have number of

      10      individuals from Charles Rutenberg Reality; namely,

      11      Joseph Moshe, Stephanie Giordano, Maurice Johnson,

      12      and Edwin Torres.

      13             If you can please turn on your video.

      14             Okay.  I think we're -- is Stephanie here?

      15             I see her.

      16             If you could please turn on your video.

      17             Ms. Giordano, if you're there, if you could

      18      please turn on your video.

      19             Okay, well, we will proceed in the meantime

      20      without her, for now.

      21             The expectation is, that she ought to be able

      22      to join us and participate here, and so we look

      23      forward to that.

      24             But in the meantime, if the rest of you could

      25      please raise your right hands.


       1             Do you solemnly swear that you'll tell the

       2      truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

       3             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Yes.

       4             MAURICE JOHNSON:  Yes.

       5             EDWIN TORRES:  Yes.

       6             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

       7             Who has opening remarks?

       8             JOSEPH MOSHE:  (Raises hand.)

       9             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Joseph, why don't you take

      10      it away.

      11             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Sure.

      12             First up, I want to thank you for conducting

      13      this hearing.

      14             Anything that we can do to eliminate

      15      unconscious and conscious systemic racism in our

      16      society is welcome.

      17             I want to start by saying about our agency,

      18      is Charles Rutenberg is probably the most diverse

      19      agency on Long Island, with agents from all corners

      20      of the earth -- okay? -- speaking approximately

      21      50 languages.

      22             I know that Charles Rutenberg stands for fair

      23      housing and equal opportunity.

      24             These are bedrocks on which we have built our

      25      entire company.


       1             We not only train our agents accordingly, but

       2      we also work with an environment where uniqueness is

       3      celebrated.

       4             We practice what we preach by becoming the

       5      most inclusive real-estate company amongst our

       6      competition.

       7             Most importantly, we provide incredible

       8      opportunity to our agents to succeed professionally.

       9             Our company model is quite different from

      10      those of other large real-estate companies.

      11             This provides an opportunity for every

      12      individual who chooses to work in real estate,

      13      thereby creating a company rich in diversity.

      14             Charles Rutenberg Reality agents range

      15      between 18 and 90 years old.  They live in every

      16      possible borough, town, village, county, and

      17      ZIP Code in the New York metropolitan area.

      18             They live in every -- they serve every

      19      neighborhood because they live in every

      20      neighborhood.

      21             We do not invest in huge numbers of

      22      brick-and-mortar buildings in house of our agents

      23      because that is not the direction of real estate in

      24      this decade.

      25             The public does not knock on the real-estate


       1      door to find housing.  They search on the Internet.

       2             When they do, they find a Charles Rutenberg

       3      agent who knows and lives locally.  They will find

       4      an agent who can speak to them in a language they

       5      understand.

       6             On our website, you can choose different

       7      languages to speak to different agents, if that's

       8      what you so desire.

       9             From the very moment that an agent becomes

      10      the career in Charles Rutenberg, they're notified

      11      that they are invested in delivering housing

      12      opportunities to every individual who seeks our

      13      assistance.

      14             When they walk through the door, they see the

      15      fair-housing declaration in our lobby, if they visit

      16      our facility.

      17             When they enter our conference room to be

      18      interviewed, it is displayed again when they sign

      19      our new-agent paperwork.

      20             We include non-discrimination documents and

      21      compliance documents that they must sign, which

      22      outlines their obligations.

      23             We, over and over, tell our agents, and

      24      supervise them and educate them, about fair housing

      25      and discrimination.


       1             I can't -- I can't emphasize that enough,

       2      that there is no room for discrimination in your

       3      society.

       4             While agents are required to take our

       5      new-agent orientation within 60 days of joining,

       6      I am there, instructing them.  We discuss fair

       7      housing, and present written educational materials,

       8      to help them understand their obligations to the

       9      public.

      10             They are instructed to check our website for

      11      additional resources that we have for them, to

      12      better understand what they can and cannot do, say,

      13      or print.

      14             We outline our company best practices, which

      15      include:

      16             Making sure to treat each client and customer

      17      identically.

      18             To document, to the best of their ability,

      19      and to read all company updates, regarding changes

      20      in the law, which we continually provide.

      21             We have a robust line presence for our

      22      agents.

      23             In addition to weekly at-a-minimum training,

      24      I host an online chat for our agents, which is

      25      available 24/7.


       1             I also send a minimum of three e-mails a day

       2      with revelent [sic] updates -- "relevant" -- of

       3      industry standards and best practices.  Fair housing

       4      and the law, are common topics.

       5             The rental market is an area where fair

       6      housing is often a topic of discussion.

       7             We run a class on a regular basis which

       8      includes industry experts.

       9             At that time, we convey the importance of

      10      equal treatment under the law.

      11             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  If you can please wrap up,

      12      your time is up.

      13             JOSEPH MOSHE:  I'm sorry.

      14             Okay, I will.

      15             We monitor every license renewal,

      16      CE obligations, and we specifically mention

      17      fair housing in many, many documents that we use.

      18             We also recently have, and put it in place,

      19      many different and new programs in place to increase

      20      our training and education.

      21             Thank you.

      22             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you very -- thank

      23      you.

      24             Anyone else have testimony or remarks --

      25      opening remarks?


       1             MAURICE JOHNSON:  Yes, I do.

       2             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay, yes, please.  Go

       3      ahead.

       4             MAURICE JOHNSON:  Hello.  My name is

       5      Maurice Johnson.

       6             My initial statement was previously submitted

       7      to Mr. Little, who I understand is the Senate's

       8      counsel.

       9             However, I would like to, you know, first

      10      read the first few paragraphs of my statement that

      11      was submitted.

      12             Thank you for the opportunity to provide this

      13      statement, which reiterates and/or supplements some

      14      of my answers given on February 13, 2020.

      15             I'm an African-American male who has been

      16      subjected to direct and indirect discrimination

      17      and/or racial prejudice, both in my personal and

      18      professional life.

      19             Consequently, because of my experiences and

      20      background, I'm not only extremely sensitive to

      21      treating everybody equally, but I try to be involved

      22      wherever I can in organizations that promote

      23      equality and opportunities for minorities.

      24             In this regard, for example, I'm actively

      25      involved with the Neighborhood Assistance


       1      Corporation of America, often speaking about

       2      housing --

       3             JOSEPH MOSHE:  (Speaking off-camera) Can you

       4      come in?  I messed something up.

       5             MAURICE JOHNSON:  -- often speaking about

       6      housing-related issues, most of whom are minorities.

       7             Moreover, while I have had -- while I have,

       8      and have had, clients who are White, and,

       9      substantially, a majority of my business comes from

      10      Black and Latino individuals, therefore, to publicly

      11      declare as "Newsday" did, through, supposedly,

      12      objective expert opinions based on nothing more than

      13      two, approximate, 45-minute conversations and

      14      analysis of computer-generated [indiscernible]

      15      separated by three weeks, that I engaged in racial

      16      and/or ethnic discrimination with regard to how

      17      I conduct myself in my chosen profession, was not

      18      merely personally offensive, and likely

      19      professionally damaging, but patently absurd.

      20             Just, quickly, I have never [indiscernible]

      21      engaged, and never will engage, in any type of

      22      discrimination, racial or otherwise, whether in my

      23      personal life or in my professional life.

      24             Likewise, I have never steered any client to

      25      a particular neighborhood, either because of the


       1      neighborhood's racial or ethic makeup or because of

       2      the client's racial -- I'm sorry -- or because of a

       3      client's racial or ethnic makeup.

       4             Last, I have never treated one client

       5      differently than another because of his or her race

       6      or ethnicity.

       7             While I have received significant training

       8      from Charles Rutenberg Reality on fair-housing

       9      issues, complying with my continuing-education

      10      requirements, I am generally knowledgeable about

      11      fair-housing issues.

      12             I don't need to be trained to be given

      13      continued -- I don't need to be trained or be given

      14      continuing education or provided literature to

      15      read -- I'm sorry -- requirements [indiscernible]

      16      fair-housing issues, I don't need to be trained and

      17      given continuing education or provided literature to

      18      read to know that no person should be treated

      19      differently because of race or ethnicity with regard

      20      to housing, or anything else.

      21             As I understand it, "Newsday" and its experts

      22      have generally claimed that I treated the Hispanic

      23      tester unequally, not as well, in comparison with

      24      the White tester, and that I did so because of

      25      discriminatory animus against the Hispanic tester


       1      based on his and/or ethnicity.

       2             I categorically deny both equivocally, and

       3      I felt unequal treatment and discriminatory

       4      motivation, and will address "Newsday's" completely

       5      speculative conclusions in more detail below, the

       6      following reasons I challenge the fairness of

       7      "Newsday's" investigation, as well as its experts'

       8      speculative conclusions as to both my actions and

       9      motivations.

      10             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.  Thank you very much.

      11             I think I saw Ms. Giordano's hand's raised?

      12             Yeah, if you can --

      13             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Thank you.

      14             Can you hear me today?

      15             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Yep.

      16             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  First I want to thank

      17      you all for being here with me.  I appreciate the

      18      opportunity to come.

      19             And I understand, and have listened to, the

      20      hearings prior to this, and my colleagues in the

      21      field.

      22             I would like to first, and foremost, read the

      23      statement that you already have, but, please, in the

      24      middle of my statement, I would like to just say a

      25      word or two, just because I feel very strongly about


       1      it.  Okay?

       2             You have my written statement, all of you.

       3             I thank you for the opportunity to provide

       4      this written statement, which reiterates the

       5      supplement to the answer given on February 5th.

       6             Before I continue, I want to make it clear to

       7      everyone here, that this is my father, Albert Cruz.

       8             I am Hispanic and Black.

       9             These are my siblings, which are Hispanic and

      10      Black.

      11             I would like to also make note that I am a

      12      lesbian woman in the community who has fought with

      13      Governor Cuomo for equality in our community.

      14             I want the governors and the Senate -- or,

      15      the senators here today to hear me when I say,

      16      I always walk, have always walked, with equality in

      17      this -- in my life, and in my business.

      18             And, Senator Thomas, I implore you to listen.

      19             I would ask that you read my statement

      20      through my attorney.

      21             I will just briefly read what he has asked,

      22      and then please ask me any questions.

      23             According to the public declaration of

      24      "Newsday," the supposed objectives, the expert

      25      opinion, I engaged in racial or un -- or ethical


       1      discrimination with regards to how I conduct my

       2      business, it is not merely -- it is not merely

       3      professionally damaging to me, but it is my personal

       4      feelings about this that is damaging to me.

       5             I have walked with equality.

       6             I have been with -- I was, at the time that

       7      I was tested, with Charles Rutenberg Reality.

       8             And I would again like to reiterate that

       9      Charles Rutenberg gave great training.

      10             I spoke to Mr. Moche many times about

      11      equality.

      12             He afforded me an opportunity, as a lesbian

      13      woman, to conduct business in Brentwood at my

      14      address at 1600 Calebs Path.

      15             He afforded me an opportunity to manage one

      16      of his locations.

      17             And I thank him for that opportunity.

      18             The testers that came to me during this test

      19      were, in my opinion, if you saw all the videos,

      20      "Newsday" did not provide any of us, or all of us,

      21      with all the evidence in this particular testing.

      22             You saw two tests.

      23             There were five tests that were conducted;

      24      five tests, in which the Hispanic tester had asked

      25      me to go to predominantly White area, which would


       1      have been Ronkonkoma, and, in addition to that,

       2      Holbrook.

       3             I took the Hispanic tester to those areas.

       4             When I asked Arthur -- he is the author of

       5      this test -- when I asked Arthur to provide me with

       6      those videos, he refused.

       7             And, in addition, he stated that there was

       8      nothing in the videos that would have shown

       9      steering.

      10             I invite the Senators today to bring my

      11      videos up today and show me where I might have

      12      steered someone along the way.

      13             I additionally want to bring to the senators'

      14      attention, that the testers were both provided a

      15      link, which enabled them to change the criteria at

      16      any time, any day, any hour, and, they were

      17      instructed upon how to use it.

      18             Okay?

      19             Additionally, the White tester never asked

      20      me, if you were testing me about inequality, you

      21      would ask the White tester to say, Bring me to

      22      Brentwood, and then I would have to say to steer.

      23             But the White tester never requested.

      24             The Hispanic tester requested showings in

      25      predominantly White areas, and were given those


       1      showings.

       2             Okay?

       3             I just want to say that the "Newsday"

       4      experts, when I went in with "Newsday" to respond,

       5      I had, and still emphatically deny, any source or

       6      any type of steering.

       7             I ask you, today, because I've come here, not

       8      because you subpoenaed me, but because this is my

       9      first opportunity to speak with you, to say, please,

      10      show me if I -- if you have some proof of me

      11      steering, which never would happen, that you bring

      12      it to me today in this hearing.

      13             I know my time is up.

      14             Senators, I appreciate you, and I appreciate

      15      you letting me speak.

      16             I know that I have been a little bit more

      17      animated because I believe in what I'm saying.

      18             The test showed 10 percent difference in

      19      properties that I showed, or -- or sent, not showed,

      20      sent to.

      21             I never sent a single property.

      22             The algorithm of the computer sent the

      23      properties.

      24             I did not send a single property.

      25             And when those testers asked to see any


       1      community, I showed them.

       2             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you, Ms. Giordano.

       3             Mr. Torres, do you have anything to say

       4      before we get to questions?

       5             EDWIN TORRES:  Uh, yes.

       6             I would like to thank everybody for being

       7      here in the meeting.

       8             I just wanted to -- I mean, I'm going to be

       9      brief.

      10             I've been with Charles Rutenberg since 2009.

      11             They do a lot of training, like they

      12      mentioned, virtually, you know, in person.

      13             I, primarily, most of my sales have been to

      14      minorities.  90 percent to 95 percent minorities.

      15             So, for me to be considered discriminating

      16      towards minorities, that would be completely against

      17      what I do.

      18             So, I mean, like I said, I'm going to be

      19      brief.

      20             That's all have I to say for now.

      21             And I don't agree with "Newsday's" report.

      22             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

      23             Thank you.

      24             I'd like to start with you, Mr. Torres.

      25             The testing that -- or, the testers that were


       1      engaged with you, and please correct me if I'm

       2      mischaracterizing this, the White tester was not

       3      required, you waived the requirement, for a

       4      preapproval from their lender.

       5             The African-American tester was required to

       6      obtain a preapproval letter from you.

       7             Is that accurate?

       8             EDWIN TORRES:  Let me explain.

       9             The Black tester sat down with me just like

      10      the White tester.  I explained the same thing to

      11      both.

      12             The Black tester simply understood that he

      13      needed to get a preapproval, but he still wanted to

      14      see a home.  I indicated that I would need a

      15      preapproval.

      16             The White tester must have stayed at least a

      17      half hour in my office, without leaving, until

      18      I told him, okay, I'll show you a house.

      19             So he was very eager to see a house.  Very

      20      eager.

      21             So I just -- I made a misjudgment, and

      22      I said, okay, I'm going to show it to you, but,

      23      I need you to get your preapproval.

      24             After a week or so that he didn't get a

      25      preapproval, I just simply stopped working with him.


       1             The Black tester, in reality, never showed,

       2      you know, that dedication to go get a preapproval,

       3      so he never got shown a home.

       4             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  So what is -- if I may ask,

       5      what is your criteria for requiring preapproval of a

       6      client or not?  Is it how pushy they are?

       7             EDWIN TORRES:  My criteria beforehand was,

       8      it's all based on your interest.

       9             We're here to provide a service.  And the

      10      more interested you are as an individual, that's --

      11      that sometimes triggers your -- you know, you

      12      bending the rules, if you want to call it that way,

      13      to be able to show them a house.

      14             But, now, after the training that I've gone

      15      through, I'm not taking anyone out if you don't have

      16      a preapproval; no ifs or buts about it.

      17             Do I get push back from the public?

      18             Yes, because they want to know, why do you

      19      need a preapproval?

      20             Well, there's two reasons why [simultaneous

      21      talking] --

      22             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Well, you don't -- and this

      23      was discussed with the last panel, you don't need to

      24      require a preapproval.  You need to be consistent

      25      with whether you require a preapproval or not.


       1             And your characterization of "bending the

       2      rules," for someone who finds out after the fact

       3      that they were treated very differently, I suspect

       4      that, you know, that African-American, that

       5      minority, would not just mildly characterize it as

       6      "bending the rules."  They would find it offensive

       7      and, quite frankly, it would be illegal.

       8             So, you know, it seems to be a recurring

       9      pattern with all these panels, that there is an

      10      epiphany that happens after, you know, "Newsday"

      11      publishes their video or their story, and, you know,

      12      they go through this additional training, and, now,

      13      you know, "I would never do that today."

      14             You know, I suspect that we're not quite

      15      getting the full story.

      16             If I may move to Maurice/Mr. Johnson, you

      17      had mentioned you have been subject to

      18      discrimination personally as an African-American

      19      man.

      20             And I wonder, you know, the hearing we've

      21      heard from the principals of these companies, the

      22      written testimonies from folks who are going to be

      23      with us later today, it seems as though, at least as

      24      far as I could tell, that a single realtor, not a

      25      single agent has been fired as a result of -- as --


       1      as a result of what has come about from this

       2      "Newsday" expos�, the enormous volume of testing,

       3      the enormous volume of videos.

       4             And, perhaps, even if you can argue, okay,

       5      well this one was a gray area; this one, you know,

       6      I don't believe "Newsday," to suggest that every

       7      single one of these allegations is discredited is

       8      unfathomable to me.

       9             As an African-American man who just testified

      10      that you have been discriminated against, how do you

      11      feel about the fact that not a single real-estate

      12      agent, as far as we can tell from the principals who

      13      are testifying today, have held any of their agents

      14      accountable?

      15             MAURICE JOHNSON:  Well, I don't -- I didn't

      16      really look at too many of the other agents.

      17             I only concerned myself with the accusations

      18      that was brought against myself.

      19             So I didn't really follow the stories of all

      20      the other agents and what happened to them, and what

      21      those agencies did or did not do, because I was

      22      just, more or less, upset that "Newsday" tried to

      23      steer.

      24             And I'm definitely using that word for

      25      "Newsday's" purposes.


       1             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Yeah, I understand your

       2      feelings about the allegations lodged against you.

       3             But, you know, do you not have any sort of

       4      fundamental, emotional reaction to the fact that

       5      there doesn't seem to be any accountability on the

       6      other side of this "Newsday" expos�?

       7             MAURICE JOHNSON:  Well, that's what I'm

       8      saying.

       9             I didn't -- if they did something wrong, and

      10      it can be proven that they did something wrong, then

      11      there should be discipline taken care of.

      12             Whether it's discipline, whether it's

      13      training, or a combination of the law, yes,

      14      something should be done.

      15             That's what I'm saying.

      16             I concerned myself -- I concerned everything

      17      that was going on with myself and what was being

      18      displayed with me.  I wasn't really concerned about

      19      everybody else.

      20             And like I said, I have been discriminated

      21      against, and I've been discriminated against even

      22      with "Newsday" itself, throughout my years of living

      23      where I live.

      24             So it's, like, it's, to me, before you say

      25      anything, for "Newsday" to bring about an article


       1      about discrimination, if you asked a lot of Black

       2      people, especially the community where I live at,

       3      they can tell you how often we have been

       4      discriminated against by "Newsday," blatantly.

       5             And no senators that I know of, nobody in the

       6      local government, ever even addresses that.

       7             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.  Thank you.

       8             MAURICE JOHNSON:  I'm a public person.

       9             At what point do we address that?

      10             And there's plenty of documentation.

      11             But at what point do the senators say, well,

      12      let's go up against "Newsday" for the blatant

      13      discrimination on how they show Black people

      14      committing crimes versus White people?

      15             The narrative is always different.  The way

      16      they publicize it on their front page, we have

      17      documentation for years.

      18             But now I have to sit and listen to "Newsday"

      19      completely pull out certain pieces of information to

      20      try to paint this narrative, which they do very

      21      well --

      22             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.  Thank you.

      23             So I'll just remind everyone --

      24             MAURICE JOHNSON:  -- to make it seem

      25      [simultaneous talking] --


       1             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  -- just remind everyone

       2      that this hearing is about the housing

       3      discrimination that's been raised, not about other

       4      issues that have been portrayed or not portrayed.

       5             Just a yes-or-no question, because my time is

       6      up:  Mr. Moshe, have -- just to confirm, have any

       7      of your agents, subsequent to this investigation,

       8      faced discipline?

       9             Just "yes" or "no," please.

      10             MAURICE JOHNSON:  No.

      11             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.  Thank you.

      12             Senator Kavanagh.

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you,

      14      Senator Skoufis.

      15             So I'm just gonna -- a few questions for

      16      Ms. Giordano.

      17             Am I saying that right?

      18             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Yes.

      19             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay, great.

      20             So before we get to the evidence from the

      21      investigation, I want to address something from your

      22      statement, and I'm going to quote.

      23             You said that you did not conduct yourself

      24      with a racially discriminated -- discriminatory

      25      animus."


       1             Do you think we need to find discriminatory

       2      animus in order to find violation of the

       3      fair-housing laws?

       4             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  I'm sorry, I'm sorry,

       5      Senator.  I didn't hear you fully.

       6             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Does there need to be

       7      "discriminatory animus," I think those were your

       8      words from your statement, in order to find a

       9      violation of the fair-housing laws?

      10             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Sir, I don't know how

      11      you will navigate through fair housing.

      12             I can only speak for myself, and the way

      13      I respond to fair housing.

      14             And I can tell you that I would invite you,

      15      sir, to explain to me where I was discriminatory in

      16      any way, fashion, or form in all five videos.

      17             Do you have all five videos, sir?

      18             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  We -- we can -- we can

      19      perhaps have that conversation some other time.

      20             In fact [simultaneous talking] --

      21             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Because I wasn't

      22      actually --

      23             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- just the way --

      24                [Simultaneous talking by both parties.]

      25             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  -- sir -- Senator --


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- just the way

       2      [simultaneous talking] --

       3             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  -- Senator, I just want

       4      to say one thing.

       5             I was not provided with all five videos.

       6             So you're asking me to respond to something

       7      that I haven't even been completely --

       8             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Ms. Giordano, just do --

       9      with all -- with great respect, I'm just asking you

      10      what you meant by a particular thing you said in

      11      your written statement, and you repeated here

      12      orally.

      13             I'm trying to understand, before we get into

      14      any of the particulars here --

      15             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Yes.

      16             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- if one -- if people of

      17      one race or ethnicity are treated -- are routinely

      18      treated differently than people of another race or

      19      ethnicity, in your mind, can we call that

      20      "discrimination," and does that violate the

      21      fair-housing laws?

      22             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Well, sir, I can only

      23      tell you my own experience.  Okay?

      24             As a lesbian Black Hispanic woman, I have

      25      been discriminated against, many times, questions


       1      asked about, one way or another.

       2             But, sir, I do not, at all, ever ask anybody

       3      any of those type questions.

       4             So do -- is there discriminates?

       5             We saw the "Newsday" article.

       6             Is there discrimination that has happened?

       7             I would say that there is.

       8             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay, and that

       9      discrimination -- again, that -- because -- because

      10      just -- just to be clear, like, the -- the way

      11      brokers and people in the business understand the

      12      laws is part of what we're talking about today,

      13      because we're talking about training, we're talking

      14      about, you know, how to alter behavior.

      15             In your mind, someone is asking inappropriate

      16      questions, or if someone is treating somebody

      17      differently, based on their race or ethnicity, they

      18      can be violating the fair-housing laws even if they

      19      don't have what you call a "discriminatory animus."

      20             Is that right?

      21             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Sir, again, when you're

      22      saying a "discriminatory animus," let's define that

      23      in your -- in -- with you.

      24             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Well, those are your

      25      words, so why don't you define [simultaneous


       1      talking] --

       2             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  And, sir, and just so

       3      that we're all understanding -- okay? -- together,

       4      I want it to be very clear for everybody here.

       5             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay, so how would you

       6      define that to make it clear for everybody?

       7             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  In what way would you

       8      like me to define it?

       9             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  They're your words.  I'd

      10      like you to tell us what you meant by them.

      11             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Sir, here's what I say,

      12      here's what I have to say:

      13             I never discriminate against anyone based on

      14      any of the protected classes and/or the

      15      non-protected classes, ever.

      16             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  If someone in your

      17      business were to treat Hispanic homebuyers

      18      differently from non-Hispanic homebuyers, and do

      19      that routinely, in your mind, based on your training

      20      and your experience in the industry, that would --

      21      and you said you had a supervisory role as well,

      22      that would constitute discrimination, even if they

      23      did not --

      24             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  [Indiscernible] -- I'm

      25      sorry, sir.


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- intend bad things to

       2      happen to people?

       3             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Sir, any discrimination,

       4      whether intended or non-attended -- or,

       5      non-intentional, is discrimination.

       6             And I think, as agents, we understand what

       7      discrimination is.

       8             I personally understand what discrimination

       9      is.

      10             I cannot speak for my colleagues.  I can only

      11      speak for myself.

      12             And, please, don't ask me to make such a

      13      broad statement for all of my colleagues.

      14             For myself, I understand, completely,

      15      unemphatically, what discrimination looks like.

      16             And I will say to you that have I never

      17      participated in it.

      18             Additionally, I would ask you, today in this

      19      hearing, to provide me proof of the discriminatory

      20      action that you are implying that I am taking.

      21             I invite you to ask for all five of my videos

      22      to be displayed for all the senators to hear and see

      23      it.

      24             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Ms. Giordano, first,

      25      we'll -- we'll perhaps have -- we'll have


       1      additional -- perhaps have additional questions for

       2      you, and maybe we'll get into some of those issues.

       3             But, again, I'm not -- I haven't implied

       4      anything about your conduct, other than asking you

       5      what something [simultaneous talking] --

       6             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  "Newsday" has implied

       7      that I steered.

       8             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- okay.

       9             That's fair enough.

      10                [Simultaneous talking by both parties.]

      11             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Additionally, they

      12      have --

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  And that's certainly why

      14      we're here today.

      15             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  -- they have put my name

      16      into a newspaper article on page 15.

      17             I was not a part of the expos�, because there

      18      was nothing clear -- there was no discrimination,

      19      sir.

      20             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay, again, we'll

      21      probably get into that in a minute.

      22             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Yes, sir.

      23             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  But, my time is up, so

      24      I'll yield it back.

      25             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Thank you.


       1             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

       2             And if I may just remind all the witnesses,

       3      it's a -- you know, we, after asking questions, are,

       4      to the extent practicable with their time, allowing

       5      for a response.

       6             And, you know, please allow my colleagues and

       7      I to, you know, get out our questions and our

       8      comments without being interrupted.

       9             Senator Thomas.

      10             SENATOR THOMAS:  Thank you.

      11             I have a question for Mr. Moshe.

      12             According to the documents that you had

      13      submitted, you supervise about 896 agents.  Is that

      14      correct?

      15             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Yes.

      16             SENATOR THOMAS:  And the Plainview office

      17      alone has about, what, 834 agents; correct?

      18             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Yes.

      19             SENATOR THOMAS:  The three agents "Newsday"

      20      flagged for potential fair-housing violations are

      21      all from the Plainview office; correct?

      22             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Well, not really, no.

      23             At the time of the -- of the incident,

      24      I believe Miss Giordano was in a branch office.

      25      [Indiscernible] --


       1             SENATOR THOMAS:  And so -- okay.

       2             Do you think that one licensed real-estate

       3      broker can properly supervise 834 agents?

       4             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Absolutely.

       5             SENATOR THOMAS:  Okay, you need to explain

       6      that.

       7             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Excuse me?

       8             SENATOR THOMAS:  You need to explain how one

       9      licensed broker can supervise the actions of more

      10      than 800 sales agents.

      11             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Okay.

      12             SENATOR THOMAS:  Explain that to me, because

      13      it's -- it's -- it's mind-boggling --

      14             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Okay.

      15             SENATOR THOMAS:  -- to, basically, sit down

      16      with every single one of these agents, and to help

      17      them sell the American dream to individuals that are

      18      out there.

      19             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Okay, let me describe to you.

      20             First off --

      21             SENATOR THOMAS:  Okay.

      22             JOSEPH MOSHE:  First off, which is very

      23      important in our company, we do not take on new

      24      real-estate agents as a matter of policy.

      25             Any agent who joins my company has to have


       1      experience in the industry, which we know that,

       2      during the course of their education, as being a

       3      licensed real estate, they have to take education on

       4      an ongoing basis.

       5             We also look for many of them to have done

       6      transactions.

       7             We interview them before they come on board.

       8             So we do a fair amount of work to ensure that

       9      the agents who join our company will represent our

      10      company professionally, and are educated enough to

      11      perform the duties that we very intently provide,

      12      and mandate.

      13             SENATOR THOMAS:  Here's the thing, here's the

      14      thing:  Everyone is human.

      15             JOSEPH MOSHE:  All right.

      16             Thank you.

      17             SENATOR THOMAS:  Including these agents here

      18      that are defending themselves from the actions that

      19      "Newsday" recorded them doing.

      20             I don't think they're bad human beings at

      21      all, but, there needs to be proper supervision.

      22             To say that, you, being the broker, hold --

      23      like, super -- being able to supervise more than

      24      800 of these agents, who are human beings, who go

      25      out there and sell homes and show homes, is a very


       1      surprising answer to me.

       2             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Okay, Mr. -- Mr. Thomas,

       3      I've heard your statements before.

       4             And I think what you're looking for,

       5      honestly, is unrealistic, in the sense that you

       6      cannot go out and be with an individual every time

       7      they take out a buyer and every time they go and

       8      show an open house.

       9             That is physically impossible for even an

      10      agency that has five agents.

      11             It just doesn't work.

      12             SENATOR THOMAS:  [Indiscernible] what I'm

      13      asking, Mr. Moshe.

      14             What I'm saying is, during the training

      15      process --

      16             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Yes.

      17             SENATOR THOMAS:  -- we have heard testimony

      18      from others, where they are simply put in a room and

      19      injected with legalese about the rules and

      20      regulations that they just simply don't comprehend,

      21      you know, what's happening out there when they show

      22      homes.

      23             Right?

      24             Their -- your bottom line, as a company, is

      25      to make profit.  And hiring as many of these sales


       1      agents, basically, helps you meet your goal.

       2             JOSEPH MOSHE:  That's not true.

       3             SENATOR THOMAS:  I just don't see how someone

       4      can supervise -- someone can supervise 800 agents --

       5             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Let me define it.

       6             SENATOR THOMAS:  -- who are all human beings,

       7      and you just don't have the capacity to do it.

       8             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Let me define it.  Okay?

       9             First off, when you talk about 800 agents,

      10      you talk about, and I'm sure everyone here has heard

      11      the "80/20 rule."

      12             Is that -- I'm sure everybody knows that?

      13             If not, I'll be happy to explain it.

      14             20 percent of the agents do 80 percent of

      15      your business, and 80 percent of your agents only do

      16      20 percent of your business.

      17             So to categorize that I have to supervise

      18      800 agents that work along the lines of

      19      Mr. Johnson, Mr. Torres, and Ms. Giordano is not

      20      accurate.

      21             These are active agents.  These are good

      22      agents.  These are agents that have the ability to

      23      perform their functions honestly, credibly, without

      24      discrimination -- okay? -- that don't require

      25      day-to-day supervision.


       1             When they do, they will tell you that they

       2      have access to me and my staff 24/7, for any reason,

       3      any question that they can have --

       4             SENATOR THOMAS:  But Mr. Moshe --

       5             JOSEPH MOSHE:  -- to provide supervision to

       6      them.

       7             SENATOR THOMAS:  But, Mr. Moshe --

       8             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Can I finish, please?

       9             SENATOR THOMAS:  One second.

      10                [Simultaneous talking by multiple

      11        parties.]

      12             SENATOR THOMAS:  Okay.  Go ahead.

      13             JOSEPH MOSHE:  That they will -- they could

      14      ask me any question about whether it's a question on

      15      fair housing, discrimination, commission, not being

      16      cooperated amongst the agency; anything that they

      17      ask in the real-estate industry, they will get a

      18      response immediately.

      19             Not within 24 hours.  They will get a

      20      response immediately.

      21             And that's how my office supervises.

      22             We have an excellent staff that provides them

      23      with education and support, and I use the word

      24      "support" with emphasis.

      25             Okay?


       1             So, remember, we're not talking about

       2      800 agents being supervised in the field on a daily

       3      basis.

       4             You're talking about a much, much lower

       5      number, and many of those are very, very

       6      professionally qualified.

       7             SENATOR THOMAS:  But, Mr. Moshe, the

       8      investigations in the undercover video shows, you

       9      know, something else.

      10             JOSEPH MOSHE:  I disagree with you.

      11             SENATOR THOMAS:  That's all I'm saying.

      12                [Simultaneous talking by both parties.]

      13             JOSEPH MOSHE:  I disagree with you,

      14      I disagree with you.

      15             SENATOR THOMAS:  Okay, you would, you would.

      16             But, again --

      17             JOSEPH MOSHE:  I would?

      18             SENATOR THOMAS:  -- it goes to --

      19             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Because my agents --

      20             SENATOR THOMAS:  -- but --

      21             JOSEPH MOSHE:  -- my agents -- okay? -- and

      22      I saw those videos, my agents were very

      23      professional, extremely professional, in their

      24      presentations.

      25             There was no discrimination in any one of the


       1      presentations.

       2             The justification of what "Newsday" found,

       3      I have to leave up to them; their individual

       4      responses as to why, what came out, came out.

       5             But I don't see, honestly.

       6             I'm not speaking to the -- you've asked --

       7             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  We have one other senator

       8      who needs to ask questions.

       9             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Okay.

      10             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Senator Thomas, you can

      11      come back for a second round.

      12             SENATOR THOMAS:  Sure.

      13             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  But, Senator Kaplan, if you

      14      can proceed.

      15             SENATOR KAPLAN:  Hello.

      16             I wanted, again, thank you for appearing here

      17      today and giving us your testimony.

      18             Mr. Moshe, I was so glad to hear that you are

      19      committed to rooting out the unconscious bias and

      20      racism.

      21             So tell me about the implicit-bias training

      22      program you and your agents are going through right

      23      now.

      24             AGENT JUDI ROSS:  We have a staff that is

      25      strictly dedicated toward training.


       1             And, you know, I think recently, when this --

       2      the whole arena of this country has been exposed to

       3      discrimination -- okay? -- it has brought on a new

       4      level of where discrimination comes from.

       5             And a lot of times discrimination comes from

       6      our upbringing; our parents, our grandparents.  And

       7      it is -- I'm going to say almost unconscious

       8      behavior.

       9             SENATOR KAPLAN:  That's exactly what we said.

      10             And I appreciate that.

      11             JOSEPH MOSHE:  And -- and we --

      12             SENATOR KAPLAN:  But the training --

      13             JOSEPH MOSHE:  -- we --

      14             SENATOR KAPLAN:  -- that you have --

      15      hopefully, have come up with, have you come up with

      16      any new training?

      17             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Yes.  That is the training --

      18      that is the training that we give.

      19             We -- we -- we're not -- we just don't talk

      20      about discrimination, but we talk about what may

      21      come out of your mouth without really thinking about

      22      it, and to think about it before time, because of

      23      that subconscious behavior that has been, for

      24      hundreds of years, ingrained in us.

      25             And we're very, very stringent on that.


       1             SENATOR KAPLAN:  And this is new, or is this

       2      something [simultaneous talking] --

       3             JOSEPH MOSHE:  The -- well, I --

       4      relatively -- relatively new is the -- is the aspect

       5      of -- of unconscious behavior, yes.

       6             SENATOR KAPLAN:  Okay.

       7             Today I [simultaneous talking] --

       8             JOSEPH MOSHE:  In light -- in light of the

       9      investigation, and in light of the "Newsday"

      10      article, it has been enhanced.

      11             And, truthfully, I think it -- not just in

      12      the real-estate industry, but I think the behavior,

      13      the unbiased behavior and the unconscious behavior,

      14      should be spoken about more across the country.

      15             SENATOR KAPLAN:  Yes.

      16             So today I plan on introducing legislation,

      17      mandating implicit-bias training for all realtors,

      18      both pre-licensed and in continuing education.

      19             Can I count on your support of this

      20      legislation in order to address the glaring problems

      21      that have been revealed in this hearing today?

      22             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Absolutely.

      23             SENATOR KAPLAN:  And do we need to add hours

      24      of training for this?

      25             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Well, I believe, yes.


       1             Absolutely.

       2             I think in any type of discrimination

       3      training there should be that type of training as

       4      well, for sure.

       5             SENATOR KAPLAN:  Thank you very much.

       6             JOSEPH MOSHE:  My pleasure.

       7             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you, Senator.

       8             We will return to Senator Kavanagh.

       9             Great.  Thank you, Senator Skoufis.

      10             So just to continue the conversation with

      11      Ms. Giordano, you know, you had asked to us talk

      12      about the particulars.

      13             So I'm going to just do a little bit of that

      14      here before I move to the next panel.

      15                [Off-video voices.]

      16             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Senator Kaplan, if you

      17      could mute yourself.  Thank you.

      18             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you,

      19      Senator Skoufis.

      20             So, Ms. Giordano, during the investigation,

      21      you met with a White non-Hispanic tester and another

      22      tester who's Hispanic.

      23             And you gave the non -- the White

      24      non-Hispanic tester 152 listings, and the Hispanic

      25      tester only 74.


       1             Do you know which of the incidents we're --

       2      the pairs were referring to?

       3             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  I didn't give any of the

       4      testers any listings.

       5             The algorithm was put into the computer, the

       6      computer spits out the listings.

       7             So I didn't send a single listing to either

       8      of the testers.

       9             I cannot represent the time, five years ago,

      10      as to what or what was on the market at that time to

      11      prompt the initial conversation.

      12             But if you listen to the initial

      13      conversation, you will hear the towns that they

      14      spoke about, and those towns were sent over.

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  And I assume you've

      16      had opportunity to review the -- the -- at least the

      17      material that was published --

      18             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  No.

      19             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- by "Newsday"?

      20             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  "Newsday" has never sent

      21      me a single document with re -- with regards to any

      22      of the properties I sent.

      23             And additionally I will state, that they have

      24      not sent me all of the recordings in order to answer

      25      the questions that you're posing against me today.


       1             I can't answer without all of the evidence,

       2      and they have not provided me with all of it.

       3             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Ms. Giordano, I understand

       4      you feel that you're working [simultaneous

       5      talking] --

       6             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Well, that's the truth,

       7      sir.  That's not a feeling.  That's the truth.

       8             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- I understand that you

       9      feel you're working with complete info -- incomplete

      10      information.

      11             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  That's correct.

      12             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  But, you know, you asked

      13      to talk about a few of the incidents, so we're going

      14      to talk them.

      15             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Absolutely.

      16             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  [Inaudible] --

      17             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  We can't talk about them

      18      in their entirety without all of the information.

      19             You can understand that -- correct? -- sir?

      20             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  We always -- we always

      21      work with the information that we have.

      22             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Right, but we weren't

      23      given all the information.

      24             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Right.

      25             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Okay.


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  So after the Hispanic

       2      tester explicitly stated that the distance from

       3      New York City was not relevant to her, you said

       4      that, quote, you wanted to bring her -- you did not

       5      want to bring her any further out east; and,

       6      instead, you wanted to keep her around Brentwood and

       7      Bay Shore --

       8             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  That's correct.

       9             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- which are predominantly

      10      minority neighborhoods.

      11             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  That's -- those are the

      12      words used in the video, sir.

      13             But the actual property addresses, as you can

      14      clearly see, did not represent that.

      15             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Ms. Giordano, you have to

      16      let Senator Kavanaugh, please get through his

      17      thought.

      18             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Oh, I'm sorry.

      19      I thought he was done.

      20             I'm sorry.  I thought he was done.

      21             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  That's okay.

      22             So you're saying that the addresses --

      23      that -- so, again, the -- the assertion -- the

      24      assertion that has been presented to us, that you

      25      presented 27 listings to the Hispanic tester in


       1      Brentwood and Bay Shore, and none to the

       2      non-Hispanic homebuyer.

       3             And, again, each of them asserted that the

       4      distance, east or west, was not relevant to them.

       5             Do you, having -- looking at what you -- you

       6      know, recognizing this was a while back, can you

       7      explain the difference?

       8             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  How can I explain -- oh,

       9      I'm sorry.

      10             Are you finished, sir?

      11             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Yeah, the different --

      12      yeah, the --

      13             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  How can I explain when

      14      I have not been presented all of the information,

      15      nor have you?

      16             How can I explain something that you and

      17      I don't have all the information for?

      18             So I will say this to you, I cannot tell you.

      19             Both of these testers, White and Hispanic,

      20      were given an app to change the criteria, as you can

      21      see in many of my -- in my written testimony, and in

      22      the video testimony, and, additionally, in

      23      "Newsday's" testimony, stated that I gave them an

      24      app to change the criteria at any time during the

      25      entire process.


       1             Okay?

       2             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  And in your practice -- in

       3      your practice, you don't put any of the inputs into

       4      that app?

       5             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Absolutely put the

       6      inputs into the app on the first meeting, and

       7      explain that they can change it at any time.

       8             Additionally, they can see all the

       9      information that I see.

      10             Additionally, they can see the school

      11      reports.

      12             Additionally, they can see everything that

      13      they want to see.

      14             They can change it at any time.

      15             I ask you:

      16             Where are the listing reports?

      17             Who handled handling those listings; who

      18      brought them in?

      19             How do you know that it wasn't changed

      20      through the app?

      21             I give -- I gave both the testers, as you can

      22      see in my video, the application to change the

      23      search criteria at any moment.

      24             I do not know if they changed the search

      25      criteria.


       1             I do not have evidence of the listings that

       2      were provided.

       3             I only have a map that generally states where

       4      I sent criteria in two different market conditions,

       5      one in the winter, one in the spring, when we all

       6      know, as real-estate professionals, that there is a

       7      flux of inventory between those times.

       8             So, I say to you, sir, show me where

       9      I steered this particular Hispanic buyer?

      10             Show me the video of the house that I took

      11      her to in Ronkonkoma.

      12             Show me the video of the house that she went

      13      to in Holbrook.

      14             Show me where I steered these people.

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  So we do have limited

      16      time.

      17             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  I know you have a

      18      limited time, but you want to have a limited time

      19      when I ask to explain.

      20             I've only had two minutes to explain to the

      21      Senate, which I'm privileged to be in front of.  And

      22      thank you [simultaneous talking] --

      23             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay, I'm going to ask you

      24      another question, and -- I'm going to ask you

      25      another question, and, perhaps, with the indulgence


       1      of the chairs, you'll another minute.

       2             If -- if lots of paired testers go to lots

       3      of --

       4             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  I can't answer what

       5      paired testers do, sir.

       6             That's not a fair question [simultaneous

       7      talking] --

       8             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Ms. Giordano, you really

       9      have to give the courtesy to my colleagues of

      10      letting them finish their questions.

      11             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you.

      12             If -- if a paired testing program, like what

      13      "Newsday" did, or like what we're contemplating,

      14      having government entities contract with nonprofits

      15      to do, send lots of paired testers that are

      16      similarly situated, that have similar economic

      17      needs, and state their housing preferences

      18      similarly, and non-Hispanic homebuyers are generally

      19      directed to predominantly minority neighbors --

      20             And, again, I recognize that you're asserting

      21      that that's not something you were involved in, but

      22      you are a professional in the industry.

      23             -- if, in general, non-Hispanic White

      24      homebuyers are directed to different neighborhoods,

      25      whether it be by an app or -- with input from the


       1      salespeople, or through directly -- you know,

       2      [indiscernible] people, directly bringing them to

       3      homes, if -- if the -- if people are treated

       4      differently based on their race or ethnicity in the

       5      outcomes, in the neighborhoods they're shown, in the

       6      listings they're shown, is that -- is that a

       7      problem?

       8             Would you count that as discrimination?

       9             And, in your understanding, would that be a

      10      violation of the fair-housing laws?

      11             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Are you asking me to

      12      speculate on all of my colleagues?

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  No.  I'm asking you your

      14      understanding of whether homebuyers who are directed

      15      to different neighborhoods --

      16             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  I've never directed

      17      anybody to a different neighborhood, sir.

      18             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- I'm asking you your

      19      understanding of what the law requires.

      20             Do you believe that if Hispanic homebuyers

      21      are generally directed to predominantly minority

      22      neighborhoods, and White non-Hispanic homebuyers are

      23      generally directed to neighborhoods that are a

      24      greater percentage White, that that would -- that

      25      would -- without -- without us getting into why they


       1      did that, would you -- would you agree that that

       2      constitutes a violation of our fair-housing laws?

       3             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Generally speaking, in

       4      your general overtones, I will generally see -- or,

       5      generally state, that people should not be

       6      discriminated based upon their race, their sex,

       7      their sexual orientation, and on and on, with

       8      regards to our fair-housing laws.

       9             I am in agreement with you, sir.

      10             If somebody should have been discriminated

      11      against, there should be some -- I guess what you're

      12      asking me, some sort of repercussion to that.

      13             I am again emphatically stating that I have

      14      never participated in any of this.

      15             And you're asking me for a general statement,

      16      which I'm not educated to give you, for everyone.

      17             I'm just myself.

      18             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

      19             Again, I just I appreciate it, and I'll end

      20      there.

      21             And I just would note that the question of

      22      what brokers are educated to understand, and what

      23      their understanding of these laws --

      24             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  I understand very

      25      clearly, sir.


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- is relevant to our

       2      proceedings today.

       3             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Senator Kavanagh --

       4             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  But thank you for your

       5      testimony.

       6             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Senator Kavanaugh,

       7      I understand completely, that every agency should

       8      take fair housing very seriously.

       9             In addition to that, under my time with

      10      Mr. Moshe, he took these things very seriously.

      11             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.  Thank you.

      12             Thank you very much.

      13             Not seeing any other senators with questions,

      14      I want to thank the panel for your participation and

      15      your testimony.

      16             And, we'll now move on.

      17             Thank you very much.

      18             JOSEPH MOSHE:  Hold on one second.

      19             STEPHANIE GIORDANO:  Senators?

      20             Senators?

      21             I invite any of you to call me, directly.

      22             Thank you.

      23             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  And thanks very much for

      24      your participation.

      25             Okay, we're going to move on, but, first, a


       1      couple of notes here, since we will be moving a

       2      little bit out of order.

       3             The next panel on the witness list, the

       4      fourth panel, will be joining us.  But they're --

       5      one of the witnesses is not quite available until a

       6      little bit later this afternoon, and so we will

       7      circle back to the fourth panel.

       8             The fifth panel, you know, I had --

       9      I referenced in my opening remarks that there were a

      10      handful of witnesses who were ignoring, or defying,

      11      our legislative subpoenas.

      12             And that was in reference to this fifth panel

      13      at the start of this morning.  They had not

      14      committed to participate.

      15             That recalcitrance has continued to this very

      16      moment.

      17             Our legal counsel has attempted, and

      18      re-attempted, to get them to come and participate

      19      today, without success.

      20             And so, at 1:30 today, our counsel is going

      21      to be before a Supreme Court judge, looking to

      22      enforce our subpoenas.

      23             We will take additional steps after that if

      24      necessary.

      25             But in the meantime, the fifth panel


       1      continues to be absent.

       2             And so, given that, we'll actually now move

       3      to the sixth panel, which is a number of folks from

       4      Keller Williams and RE/MAX; primarily RE/MAX, one

       5      individual from Keller Williams [sic].

       6             And those four are:  Alan Eldridge,

       7      Joy Tuxson, Christopher Hubbard, and

       8      Rosemarie Marando.

       9             OFF-CAMERA TECHNICIAN:  Senator, we're having

      10      trouble reaching Rosemary [sic].Mirando.

      11             We will keep attempting that, and keep you

      12      updated.

      13             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.  Very good.

      14             In the meantime, I see Mr. Eldridge has

      15      joined us.

      16             And we're waiting on Ms. Tuxson and Mr. --

      17             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  She's with me, she's next

      18      to me.

      19             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Oh, okay.  Very good.

      20             And I see Mr. Hubbard has joined us as well.

      21             And so the three of you will get started with

      22      you-all.

      23             If you could please, first, raise your right

      24      hand.

      25             Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the


       1      truth, and nothing but the truth, so you help you

       2      God?

       3             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  I do.

       4             JOY TUXSON:  I do.

       5             CHRISTOPHER HUBBARD:  I do.

       6             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Very good.  Thank you.

       7             I -- we'll start with opening remarks.

       8             Mr. Eldridge, do you have anything to begin?

       9             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  I do.

      10             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

      11             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  I'm going to read them.

      12             I am the founder of -- sorry -- I'm the

      13      broker of RE/MAX Beyond.  My office is in Melville.

      14             My office has produced documents to the

      15      committee in response to your subpoenas, and I'm

      16      here today to answer your questions.

      17             Under state law, real-estate agents are

      18      required to undergo training to maintain their

      19      license status.

      20             Furthermore, agents must follow the

      21      National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics, and

      22      comply with local, state, and federal law.

      23             RE/MAX Beyond holds monthly office meetings

      24      where new topics are discussed, such as recent

      25      changes in law.


       1             Topics discussed are informative and assist

       2      the agents in furthering their careers.

       3             The topics include:  Market conditions, new

       4      technology, and new rules and regulations in the

       5      real-estate industry.

       6             Fair-housing issues will also be a topic for

       7      discussion.

       8             Handouts are prepared for any agent who

       9      misses the meeting so they can stay informed and up

      10      to date on new developments.

      11             Since the "Newsday" article was published,

      12      I have had discussions with staff to outline their

      13      responsibilities.

      14             Also, there's an opportunity for new agents

      15      to gain experience by shadowing an agent in the

      16      field.

      17             With brand-new agents, I have spent a

      18      considerable amount of time ensuring they are aware

      19      of their responsibilities with regard to agency and

      20      fair-housing law.

      21             New agents must learn how to practice in the

      22      field, and spending time with experienced agents

      23      helps to further that goal.

      24             RE/MAX also has policies in place to assist

      25      agents with any questions they may have regarding


       1      fair housing.

       2             RE/MAX agents have also been encouraged to

       3      call, text, or walk into my office with any

       4      questions they may have.

       5             I have an open-door policy for any questions

       6      or concerns, and I will reach out -- sorry.

       7             I have an open-door policy for any questions

       8      or concerns.  And if I don't know the answer, I will

       9      reach out to the Long Island Board of Realtors for

      10      clarification.

      11             Joy Tuxson has been an agent associated with

      12      RE/MAX Beyond since 2011.

      13             I know Joy to be extremely diligent in

      14      following the rules and conscientious in dealing

      15      with clients.

      16             As such, I have had no issues with Joy since

      17      her time at RE/MAX Beyond, and know her to be a

      18      valuable member of the office.

      19             I have reviewed the tape associated with the

      20      "Newsday" article, and, for the most part, believe

      21      Joy acted with professionalism.

      22             I understand how some of the statements could

      23      have been taken differently than what was intended,

      24      and as Joy could have chosen her words more

      25      carefully.


       1             However, I feel strongly that that was not

       2      her intention or the outcome she desired.

       3             I have had conversations with Joy about her

       4      statements.  I am confident that her intent was not

       5      to discriminate or disparage any race, nor did she

       6      intend to steer either of the testers.

       7             In fact, the "Newsday" article clearly shows

       8      a listing sent to both testers overlap in the same

       9      neighborhood and in the same school district.

      10             Indeed, since the "Newsday" article was

      11      published, Joy -- excuse me -- has obsessively

      12      followed the law, and even sought out more effective

      13      training in order to make sure she's complying with

      14      the law.

      15             My office takes the allegations in the

      16      "Newsday" article, and any allegations of

      17      discrimination, very seriously.

      18             And we will do everything within our power to

      19      assure our clients, moving forward.

      20             Thank you.

      21             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you very much.

      22             Do you have anything to add?

      23             I know you're together there.

      24             Ms. Tuxson, do you have anything?

      25             JOY TUXSON:  Well, I have an opening


       1      statement.

       2             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Yes, that's what I mean.

       3             Please, go ahead.

       4             JOY TUXSON:  I've been a real-estate agent in

       5      New York starting 19 -- since 1972.

       6             I briefly left the state in 1980.  I went to

       7      another state where I became a licensed agent, and

       8      then a licensed broker.

       9             I returned to New York State in 1985,

      10      obtained my salesman's license, and then my broker's

      11      license.

      12             I've been at RE/MAX for a total of 25 years.

      13             And since 2011, as Allan had stated, I've

      14      been with RE/MAX Beyond.

      15             In my over 40 years of experience as a

      16      real-estate broker and agent, I have never once

      17      received a complaint for discrimination or

      18      violations of federal fair-housing law.

      19             I practice with the utmost respect and

      20      professionalism that the real-estate industry

      21      deserves.

      22             I follow the law extremely carefully, and

      23      ensure that I am up to date on all regulations and

      24      changes to the law.

      25             I'm constantly seeking out new changes to the


       1      law, to make sure that I am in compliance with all

       2      recent fair-housing and non-discrimination laws.

       3             I also make sure to fulfill the necessary

       4      requirements for my license to remain active and in

       5      good standing with the department of state and

       6      division of licensing.

       7             I am up to date on all training and

       8      educational requirements, as required by -- to be an

       9      associate real-estate broker in New York.

      10             Furthermore, I believe my conduct and actions

      11      support my position that I treat clients with the

      12      respect and professionalism they deserve.

      13             I have never used ethnic backgrounds or race

      14      to steer any of my clients away from towns or areas.

      15             I informed both of the testers to conduct

      16      their own research online.

      17             Furthermore, there is a direct quote in the

      18      "Newsday" article which states I proved --

      19      I provided comparable listings to both testers.

      20             The experts cited in the "Newsday" article

      21      agreed with this assertion.

      22             I have learned a great deal from this

      23      experience, and will take the lessons learned with

      24      me as I continue in my profession as a licensed

      25      real-estate associate broker.


       1             As a result of this investigation, I sought

       2      out a course, which -- from a new instructor hired

       3      by my board, Sharon Mullen, who works for

       4      Fair Housing on Long Island.

       5             I took her course, and she was very clear,

       6      presenting the course, going through how fair

       7      housing arrived, year after year after year, which

       8      I lived through personally.  And she made it very

       9      crystal-clear that we were only allowed to speak

      10      about the house.

      11             Very clear.

      12             I now only discuss the property itself.  And

      13      if asked about any other extraneous factors,

      14      I reply, "The fair-housing laws prohibit my

      15      commenting on that topic."

      16             I take my position as a real-estate agent for

      17      over 40 years very seriously, and will continue to

      18      serve my community with utmost respect and

      19      professionalism it deserves.

      20             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you very much.

      21             I know that we've been -- I think we've been

      22      joined by Ms. Marando.

      23             I see you there.

      24             Thanks for getting onto this Zoom.

      25             If I may, before we move on, we swore each of


       1      the rest of the witnesses under oath.

       2             If you can please raise your right hand for

       3      me.

       4             Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the

       5      truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

       6             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  Yes.

       7             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you very much.

       8             I will now move to Mr. Hubbard.

       9             CHRISTOPHER HUBBARD:  Yes.

      10             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Do you have any opening

      11      remarks?

      12             CHRISTOPHER HUBBARD:  I do.

      13             I just want to thank everyone for being here

      14      today, and for holding this hearing in order to

      15      address what is a very serious topic.

      16             I am here in my capacity as a broker, to do

      17      my best answer your questions regarding the

      18      "Newsday" article, and my profession more generally.

      19             As it's already been a long day I think for,

      20      you know, many of us, and there is a lot more to go,

      21      so I do want to be brief.

      22             I do want to take a moment to address the

      23      allegations in the "Newsday" article.

      24             First, I do note, and I want to note, that

      25      I share my concerns raised by my colleagues


       1      regarding the methodology "Newsday" used in

       2      conducting its investigation.

       3             For example, "Newsday" admits that, while it

       4      obtained expert opinions, those experts' opinions

       5      were based only on portions of broker interactions

       6      with testers.

       7             We do not know specifically which clips

       8      "Newsday" shared with these experts.

       9             Additionally, the investigation was

      10      imprecise.

      11             "Newsday" drew conclusions from only

      12      two testers in interactions with me, the smallest

      13      possible sample size.

      14             Each tester provided a different background

      15      that influenced the recommendations I provided.

      16             Leaving aside the serious concerns I have

      17      over "Newsday's" methodology, I do want to address

      18      the allegations against me.

      19             I categorically deny engaging in any evidence

      20      of steering, and note that, in my 17-plus years of

      21      work in this field, I have never treated clients

      22      differently based on race, gender, ethnicity, sexual

      23      orientation, or any other such characteristic.

      24             First, you know, in my circumstances,

      25      "Newsday" alleges I have inconsistent statements


       1      regarding the quality of certain neighborhoods to

       2      each tester.

       3             You know, I believe, based on my review of

       4      the conversations with the testers, it shows that my

       5      description of the neighborhoods were consistent to

       6      both testers in those conversations in those

       7      consultations.

       8             Similarly, "Newsday" alleges that I provided

       9      inconsistent properties to the testers.

      10             But, again, within review of my case, that is

      11      not true neither.

      12             I am here to, you know, help in this serious

      13      circumstance and review.

      14             So whatever questions you have, I am here to,

      15      you know, provide whatever information I can.

      16             And I do just want to make a note that each

      17      office -- each RE/MAX office is independently owned

      18      and operated.

      19             And, you know, I'm not aware of any other

      20      agents -- RE/MAX agent or any agent's circumstances

      21      or their specific circumstances with the "Newsday"

      22      article.

      23             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you for those

      24      remarks.

      25             Ms. Marando, do you have any opening


       1      statement?

       2             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  Good day, Senators.

       3             My name is Rosemarie Marando, and I am a

       4      real-estate salesperson with Coldwell Banker Realty.

       5             I'm here today because you have asked me to

       6      testify in relation with the November 2019 "Newsday"

       7      report.

       8             Let me start by telling you a little bit

       9      about myself.

      10             I've been working as a real-estate

      11      salesperson for over nine years.

      12             I am a single mother, and my children have

      13      all attended schools on Long Island.

      14             I absolutely love my job, which has helped me

      15      financially support my family.

      16             I've been humbled and blessed to assist many

      17      families make Long Island their home.

      18             I am also a Christian woman, and I respect

      19      all people.  I believe that we are all created in

      20      God's likeness and image, and we have all been

      21      created for his purpose and plan.

      22             These last few months have been for me the

      23      most difficult of my life.

      24             The "Newsday" report inaccurately and

      25      unfairly accused me of providing unequal treatment


       1      to undercover testers sent to me in 2016.

       2             As a result of these allegations and

       3      publication of my personal information, I've been

       4      threatened, ostracized, and harassed.

       5             My reputation in the community, and

       6      professionally, has been destroyed.

       7             In addition to the industry-wide damage

       8      caused by the COVID pandemic, my health and my

       9      career have been significantly damaged as a result

      10      of my cooperation with multiple agencies.

      11             To be clear, I have never had a single

      12      complaint filed against me from any client, or

      13      previous client, in my entire career.

      14             I have been compliant with all

      15      continuing-education requirements.

      16             You have seen the content selected by

      17      "Newsday" for publication, so I would like to take

      18      an opportunity to provide additional information

      19      that "Newsday" omitted or that you may not be aware

      20      of.

      21             For example, despite the "Newsday" report

      22      making me the focus of an article titled "They Call

      23      It Steering," "Newsday" dedicated a single sentence

      24      to truth, which read, "She gave both testers

      25      comparable listings in similar areas, showing no


       1      evidence of steering."

       2             The fact that I provided Mr. Tune [ph.]

       3      information for a listing around the corner from my

       4      home, and toward properties in my neighborhood, and

       5      also the fact that I needed to stop all

       6      communications with Mr. Samuels after he left me

       7      aggressive messages.

       8             I was first contacted by Mr. Samuels in

       9      May of 2016.

      10             Mr. Samuels told me that he would meet me at

      11      my office, with his wife.  But he showed up alone

      12      for our appointment, as reflected in the report.

      13             My meeting with Mr. Samuels lasted only

      14      26 minutes, during which time he told me that he was

      15      looking for a house for him, his wife, and their son

      16      within 30 minutes of [indiscernible] Hospital where

      17      his wife worked, with a budget of 500,000.

      18             I provided information about the areas

      19      requested by Mr. Samuel, who also expressed a

      20      concern about living near college students,

      21      especially considering the proximity to the local

      22      university.

      23             Because of his concern about the

      24      neighborhood, I suggested that he visit areas at

      25      different various times of the day, and that he


       1      speak with residents and get a feel for the

       2      community and the quality of the schools.

       3             What "Newsday" does not reflect is that, when

       4      Mr. Samuels arrived for his second visit, he did so

       5      without his wife again.

       6             I initially followed up with him, but stopped

       7      corresponding with him when I began to feel very

       8      uncomfortable.

       9             Specifically, Mr. Samuels became aggressive,

      10      leaving me aggressive messages, at which point

      11      I stopped all communications with him.

      12             In October of 2016, a total of 139 days after

      13      the meeting with Mr. Samuels, I met the second

      14      tester sent by "Newsday," Mr. Tune.  And he told me

      15      he was looking for a home within 30 minutes of a

      16      rehabilitation center in Edgewater where his mother

      17      was living.

      18             As reflected in the video, Mr. Tune spent

      19      an hour and thirteen minutes in my office.

      20             Similar to my initial discussion with

      21      Mr. Samuels, I provided extensive information about

      22      the home-buying process, and provided a referral for

      23      a mortgage broker.

      24             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Ms. Marando, if you can

      25      just wrap up in the next 20 seconds or so, your time


       1      is up.

       2             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  Okay.

       3             I fully understand why the comments

       4      [indiscernible] by "Newsday" report video clips may

       5      be hurtful to some.

       6             I understand that a home is the largest

       7      purchase most people will ever make in their lives.

       8             And my goal has always been to ensure every

       9      client is ultimately happy with their purchase; that

      10      I have been able to make a living in the industry.

      11             And my prior clients have been very satisfied

      12      with my level of service that I have provided, and,

      13      therefore, have referred me to their family and

      14      their friends.

      15             Thank you for taking time to listen to a

      16      snapshot of my story.

      17             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you very much for

      18      your participation and your testimony.

      19             I'll get started with questions, and I'll

      20      begin with Mr. Eldridge, if I may.

      21             I just want to confirm, based on your written

      22      testimony, it appears that, in the aftermath of

      23      "Newsday's" investigation, there has -- there has

      24      been no disciplinary proceedings within your

      25      brokerage.  Is that correct?


       1             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  That is correct.

       2             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

       3             Can you explain to me, how long have you been

       4      a broker?

       5             Why don't I start there, how many years?

       6             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  Approximately 15 years.

       7             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  15 years.

       8             In your 15 years, have you had to -- or, have

       9      you fired anybody, not related to sales and sales

      10      numbers, but have you fired anybody for violations

      11      of the law, or unscrupulous behavior?

      12             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  Yes, I have.

      13             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  You have?

      14             Okay.

      15             So if I may ask our folks in the back end

      16      here, if you can please play the clip associated

      17      with Joy Tuxson.  I would like to play that, and

      18      then follow up with a question or two.

      19                (Video clip playing, and transcribed as

      20        follows:)

      21             AGENT JOY TUXSON:  Oh, do you really want

      22      your future children going to Amityville School

      23      District?

      24             Again, I'm not allowed to steer you.

      25             But you go on -- and I'm not going to send


       1      you anything in Wyandanch, unless you don't want to

       2      start your car to buy crack.  Unless you just want

       3      to walk up the street.

       4             Wow.

       5                (End of video clip and corresponding

       6        transcription.)

       7             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  So, Mr. Eldridge, you

       8      commented that you felt that Ms. Tuxson, I think

       9      your words were, "mostly acted with

      10      professionalism."

      11             I think anyone who is objective and looking

      12      at, or listening to, that clip, where Ms. Tuxson,

      13      you know, is quoted as saying, you know, basically,

      14      "stay away from Wyandanch, unless you want [sic] to

      15      start your car to buy your crack."

      16             What would she have had to have said in

      17      addition to that for it to have crossed the line for

      18      you?

      19             Would she have had to explicitly say, well,

      20      you're White.  So unless you want [sic] to start

      21      your car to buy your crack, you should stay away

      22      from there?

      23             What else would she have had to have said for

      24      you to have taken disciplinary action?

      25             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  Well, Senator, first, you


       1      have taken a 30-second clip out of a 45-minute

       2      discussion.

       3             And if you were listening, or if you showed

       4      the entire piece, you would have understood that

       5      there was some background regarding the discussion

       6      with the individual that Joy Tuxson was talking to,

       7      and there was concerns about crime.

       8             In fact, "Newsday" itself had had articles

       9      appearing at that time all over the front page about

      10      issues in Wyandanch.

      11             So I think that was the crux of the comment.

      12             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Uh-huh.

      13             So -- so you don't have any issue with what

      14      was -- what we just heard?

      15             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  If you take it out of

      16      context the way you said it, and that was the end of

      17      it, yes, I would have.

      18             But, again, I think when you take it into

      19      the -- you know, the entire discussion that was had,

      20      and I -- and, again, if you looked at the -- if you

      21      listen to the additional 45-plus minutes of the

      22      discussion, in general, I had -- I didn't have a

      23      problem that rose to the level of where I would take

      24      action in -- in -- in -- with Ms. Tuxson.

      25             So that's why -- that was the reason for my


       1      comments before.

       2             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  So crime came up in a

       3      conversation, and then that comment was made.

       4             Quite frankly, even with that context, that

       5      sort of messaging is abhorrent, I think most people

       6      would agree, and, no doubt, is steering that White

       7      tester in a way, that the message was not relayed to

       8      the minority tester.

       9             Is that -- am I characterizing that unfairly

      10      somehow?

      11             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  No, again, I think if

      12      you -- if you take -- if you take the, you know,

      13      30 or 40 seconds that you played out of context, it

      14      certainly appears that way.

      15             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Do you believe that

      16      comment, even with your context, is appropriate?

      17             Or -- or -- I mean, that is an abhorrent

      18      statement.

      19             And, quite frankly, I think most people would

      20      agree, a violation of fair-housing laws.

      21             Do you disagree that that is a wildly

      22      inappropriate comment?

      23             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  Again, based upon the

      24      30 or 40 seconds, I do.

      25             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  That is astonishing to me.


       1             My time is up.

       2             I'll move over to Senator Kavanaugh.

       3             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Great.  Thank you,

       4      Senator Skoufis.

       5             I'd like to note that we've been joined by

       6      Senator Rivera.

       7             And I don't know if we mentioned

       8      Senator Comrie already, but he's also joined us.

       9             So, Mr. Eldridge, you mentioned in your

      10      opening remarks that it was important to you that

      11      Ms. Tuxson did not intend to discriminate or steer.

      12             Do you believe intent is required for conduct

      13      to be discriminatory?

      14             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  I'm sorry.

      15             Senator, could you repeat the last part of

      16      your question?

      17             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Do you believe that it is

      18      necess -- that intent is required for conduct to be

      19      discriminatory?

      20             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  Under the law, no.

      21      Absolutely [simultaneous talking] --

      22             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  So your -- under your view

      23      of -- your use of the word "discriminatory?"

      24             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  No.

      25             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.


       1             And, presumably, just to follow up, you also

       2      believe that intent to discriminate is not required

       3      to demonstrate a violation of the fair-housing laws?

       4             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  That's correct.

       5             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

       6             I want to -- I want to ask Ms. Tuxson, what

       7      is your understanding of what it means to, quote,

       8      steer a potential homebuyer?

       9             JOY TUXSON:  I don't steer, so I -- to tell

      10      them where they should live?

      11             Would that be --

      12             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

      13             So -- so you think if you are telling

      14      somebody where they should go, if you're encouraging

      15      them to live in one neighborhood, if you're

      16      discouraging them from living in a certain

      17      neighborhood, is that what you consider "steering"?

      18             JOY TUXSON:  Yes.

      19             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

      20             And in your understanding, that's not legal?

      21             JOY TUXSON:  Yes.

      22             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

      23             So the comment that Mr. Skoufis -- that

      24      Senator Skoufis showed you, what do you think the

      25      effect is of telling somebody that, in a given


       1      community, if you live there, you can buy crack

       2      within walking distance?

       3             JOY TUXSON:  What do I think, what?

       4             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  What do you think the

       5      effect is on that -- on that potential homebuyer's

       6      interest in living in that community?

       7             JOY TUXSON:  You're talking about the comment

       8      that I made to the White tester?

       9             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Yes, saying that, "if you

      10      live in that community, you won't need to start your

      11      car to buy crack."

      12             JOY TUXSON:  The White tester told me that

      13      her and her husband both lived in apartments in

      14      Queens.  They lived in an apartment in Queens.  They

      15      both grew up in apartments in this city.

      16             They had no knowledge whatsoever of

      17      Long Island.  They didn't know any of the towns.

      18      They had no relatives who lived on Long Island.

      19      They had no friends who lived on Long Island.

      20             The woman was very concerned, and nervous,

      21      about that fact.

      22             And, at the time, that particular year, and

      23      in that time frame, "Newsday" had on the front page

      24      about drug busts, about crack busts.  There was a

      25      lot of crime, a lot of drugs, and it was continually


       1      in the news.

       2             And I assumed that she was concerned with

       3      that, and that was her distress.

       4             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

       5             And you think that's a sort of accurate

       6      measured way of describing the situation, that you

       7      can -- you know, one thing you can be sure of,

       8      living there, is that you'll be able to buy crack

       9      within walking distance?

      10             JOY TUXSON:  According to "Newsday," yes.

      11             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  And I assume

      12      "Newsday" didn't quite characterize it that way.

      13             Do you think that providing that information

      14      to White homebuyers should be of concern if we're

      15      concern -- to us if you're -- if we're concerned

      16      about enforcing fair-housing laws?

      17             JOY TUXSON:  The words I used were

      18      unfortunate.  I shouldn't have said what I said.

      19             I've since taken a course that -- the board

      20      of realtors -- I belong to the Multiple Listing.

      21             And their instructors had taught, previously,

      22      that anything affected the price of a house, you

      23      could -- you can talk about.

      24             Since then, I took this course with

      25      Sharon Mullen.  She was very clear.  She works with


       1      Long Island Housing.

       2             I know now I'm only allowed to speak about

       3      the house.

       4             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

       5             And you -- but -- and you think -- so you

       6      think the effect of this comments, and your intent,

       7      was to discourage them from living in that area?

       8             JOY TUXSON:  No.  Absolutely not.

       9             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  What was your intent if

      10      not to discourage them from living in that area?

      11             JOY TUXSON:  I'm sorry, what was the

      12      question?

      13             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  What was your intent of

      14      saying -- of pointing out the availability of crack,

      15      if it was not --

      16             JOY TUXSON:  [Simultaneous talking] --

      17             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- to discourage them from

      18      living there?

      19             JOY TUXSON:  To calm her down.

      20             And I wasn't -- I was going to find her a

      21      home.

      22             People hire me to sell their homes or to find

      23      them a home, and that's what I do.  And they have to

      24      feel comfortable with me.

      25             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay, and, again, your --


       1      but your intent, when you said that "you can buy

       2      crack within walking distance," you're telling us

       3      today that that was not -- you didn't think that

       4      would either encourage or discourage them from

       5      living there?

       6             That was just a -- you know, a fact, sort of

       7      like, you know, it's a sunny day, or the houses are

       8      blue?

       9             JOY TUXSON:  What I did was, the -- she --

      10      she asked for houses in Bethpage -- within 30 miles

      11      of Bethpage.

      12             I sent her houses in Bethpage.

      13             The two testers, the one White and the one

      14      Asian, I sent one 6 houses, one 7 houses.

      15             When we went into "Newsday" to first review

      16      the tapes before the article was published,

      17      Mr. Herbert turned the laptop around and he showed

      18      us a map interlacing the homes that I sent.

      19             They were all in Bethpage, which both

      20      buyers had asked for.

      21             One of the houses was the same house.

      22             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

      23             Just, my time is up.

      24             I'm [indiscernible] -- I'll just say, like,

      25      it seems perplexing to say that those words are


       1      unfortunately chosen, but that, somehow their intent

       2      was not to discourage the person to whom you were

       3      saying them from -- from considering living in that

       4      community.

       5             But I'll yield my time.

       6             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

       7             Thank you, Senator Kavanaugh.

       8             I know that -- oh, Senator Thomas, you are

       9      back.

      10             Do you have any questions?

      11             SENATOR THOMAS:  I just have a few for

      12      Mr. Eldridge.

      13             There seems to be a deep misunderstanding,

      14      not only on the part of the agents, but among

      15      brokers too, that fair-housing laws don't apply if

      16      the agent did not intend to discriminate.

      17             Where do you think this "intent" standard

      18      originated?

      19             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  Well, I think, first of

      20      all, that the past training that we've had in this

      21      area is -- is woefully inadequate.

      22             I mean, we have to take three -- I think it's

      23      three hours of fair housing every two years.

      24             I've had agents, you know, 10 years, they

      25      take the same course every 2 years.  So, I mean,


       1      they've had 15 hours of fair housing, but they've

       2      heard the same over and over and over, and it goes

       3      back to citing, you know, when the first law was

       4      enacted back in 1867.  And the next law was enacted

       5      in 1879, and then 1912, rather than really getting

       6      into the crux of the issues.

       7             And I -- you know, after this came out,

       8      I went back to the National Association of Realtors,

       9      and looked in, and pulled out videos that you were

      10      able to, you know, provide to brokers so that they

      11      could -- and you had actors, you know, and these

      12      actors would portray a scenario where discrimination

      13      was occurring.

      14             And the agents in my office, seeing this all

      15      of a sudden -- and -- and -- and it's, you know, the

      16      nuances of it, all of a sudden, they got a -- you

      17      know, you get a new understanding.

      18             And so, for me, that was very enlightening.

      19             And I think that helps to overcome this

      20      specific issue where, you know, as you said, you

      21      know --

      22             SENATOR THOMAS:  So you're trying to correct

      23      the problem, basically?

      24             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  -- oh, absolutely.

      25             SENATOR THOMAS:  Okay.


       1             Let me go to the next question, then.

       2             Ms. Tuxson stated today that she obtained the

       3      statistic on drug prevalence from "Newsday".

       4             Mr. Hubbard got live -- liveability

       5      statistics from

       6             Does RE/MAX, dot, encourage its agents to get

       7      crime or school statistics from legitimate

       8      government sources?

       9             Why are agents using these unreliable or

      10      potentially biased sources as a basis for their

      11      information?

      12             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  I can't -- I can't

      13      comment on Mr. Hubbard because he's -- you know,

      14      he's in a different office.  So I'm not sure what he

      15      was doing.

      16             But I can tell you what we do is, we

      17      encourage agents to tell their clients, their

      18      customers/the consumer, to go out and do their own

      19      research.

      20             We really don't want them going to a specific

      21      site.

      22             "Newsday" used to provide sites.

      23             I mean, there's so many different places you

      24      can go to to find information.

      25             And the problem you have is -- you know, is


       1      if you point out one, and they're wrong, then you're

       2      wrong.

       3             So what we do is, we go out in those

       4      instances and say, there's plenty of information on

       5      the web.  There's plenty of places you can go and

       6      find information.  Do your own research.

       7             SENATOR THOMAS:  But, again, what we saw on

       8      video just recently showed that an agent was giving

       9      information rather than telling a customer to do

      10      their own research.

      11             What do you have to say about that?

      12             JOY TUXSON:  I think that's wrong.

      13             I think you should be encouraging agents to

      14      tell their customers to go out and do their own

      15      research.

      16             SENATOR THOMAS:  Okay.

      17             All right.  I don't have any more questions.

      18             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

      19             Thank you, Senator Thomas.

      20             I'll -- I'll take a moment, if I may, to

      21      follow up with Ms. Tuxson.

      22             Have you ever made a comment like the one we

      23      heard in that clip before, or is that the only time

      24      you ever made a comment like that, that can very

      25      easily, to 99 percent of people, be construed as,


       1      you know, very negative and broad-brush towards an

       2      entire community, derogatory towards an entire

       3      community?

       4             Is that -- have you ever made that kind of a

       5      comment before?

       6             JOY TUXSON:  It was a very flippant comment

       7      that I shouldn't have made.  And, yes, I probably

       8      have.  And it was not directed at a community.

       9             It clearly states in the article that

      10      I informed both buyers that they should do their own

      11      research.

      12             I told them, I'm not allowed to steer, and

      13      that they need to do their own research and tell me

      14      what they want.

      15             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

      16             Thank you.

      17             Now, you've talked about, and Mr. Eldridge

      18      has talked about, additional training that you've

      19      received since this all came to light.

      20             Do you think, if you can sort of step outside

      21      of your shoes for a moment, and look at what's going

      22      on from the outside, do you think that you'd -- you

      23      know, objectively speaking, that you would have

      24      learned a lesson from this new training without this

      25      "Newsday" expos� and this video have -- you know,


       1      having come out?

       2             Or, you know, is this a matter of, like, you

       3      know, having -- I hate to phrase it this way --

       4      having gotten caught, and now being very much aware

       5      of it, and I, you know, can't be caught doing that

       6      again?

       7             Or do you think this training actually -- if

       8      it's someone else, someone who wasn't caught by

       9      "Newsday" in your brokerage, Mr. Eldridge, different

      10      agent, who wasn't caught, but was doing -- you know,

      11      making similar, quote/unquote, flippant remarks, do

      12      you think this new training is actually getting them

      13      to stop?

      14             JOY TUXSON:  I think as, Mr. Eldridge stated,

      15      we were being taught by Multiple Listing.

      16             After this -- I can't really answer that

      17      question.

      18             After this article came out, Multiple Listing

      19      fired the instructors, they fired the two attorneys,

      20      and they brought in this new woman and other people

      21      who are teaching us differently.

      22             So, I don't know.

      23             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  So I guess, Mr. Eldridge,

      24      do you have a very high level of confidence that

      25      this new training is going to ensure that this --


       1      these types of comments are not made, moving

       2      forward?

       3             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  I can't -- I can't give

       4      you a definitive answer.

       5             I think it will definitely help.

       6             I think changing the training, again, to --

       7      to -- you know, to promote real situations, as

       8      opposed to historical, what happened when, I think

       9      will help significantly.

      10             You know, when you -- when you look at

      11      something, and you can -- as I said, if you're

      12      looking at a video and you can see something

      13      happening before your eyes, even though it may be,

      14      you know, a performance, it still makes you,

      15      I think, significantly more aware of what can

      16      happen, or what has happened, as opposed to the way

      17      our training had been prepared in the past.

      18             So, yes, I do think it will help.

      19             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

      20             Do you think we need more testing in the

      21      industry?

      22             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  I think it's -- it's --

      23      absolutely.

      24             I mean, everyone, you know, if you didn't

      25      have traffic lights, you didn't have people giving


       1      tickets for traffic lights, we'd all be going

       2      through traffic lights.

       3             So I think there should be more testing.

       4             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Is there anything that you

       5      can do, do you think, as a broker?

       6             Now, you know, it's been mentioned, not just

       7      on this panel, but many of the previous panels

       8      today, that, you know, people claiming, well, I've

       9      never had a complaint lodged against me, so, you

      10      know, this is an outrageous allegation.

      11             I mentioned previously, you know, it's --

      12      it's incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for

      13      someone to know to lodge a complaint for being

      14      treated inappropriately or inconsistently because

      15      they don't know how other people were treated by

      16      that agent.

      17             You have to know that someone else was

      18      treated better, or know that someone else was

      19      treated consistently, to realize, oh, I was

      20      mistreated, I was treated inconsistently.

      21             And, of course, people have no idea how the

      22      next guy was treated by the agent, so of course they

      23      don't know to file a complaint.

      24             What more can you do?

      25             So testing, I think, is really crucial here.


       1             But what more can you do as a broker to

       2      ensure that -- you know, knowing that complaints

       3      only materialize if you have some magic ball and

       4      know how others are treated, what more can you do as

       5      a broker to ensure that your agents are not behaving

       6      like what we're talking about?

       7             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  I think you have to

       8      continuously bring it to their attention.

       9             It's not something, you know, we -- we talk

      10      about it once and then you forget about it.

      11             You have to talk about it.

      12             As I said, I hold monthly meetings.

      13             So, you know, every time you have a meeting,

      14      it should come up and there should be a discussion.

      15             You know, if my agents aren't at a meeting,

      16      when I send them information, I have them sign off

      17      that they've read this and they understand it, and

      18      they e-mail it back to me.

      19             So I want to make certain that I cover

      20      everyone in the office.

      21             But I think you have to do it continuously,

      22      that's all.

      23             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

      24             Just one last question, yes or no:  Have you

      25      ever fired someone over your 15 years as a broker


       1      for violating fair-housing laws?

       2             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  No.

       3             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

       4             Thank you.

       5             Senator Kavanaugh?

       6             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Am I up, Senator Skoufis?

       7             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Yes, yes.

       8             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  Great.

       9             Thank you very much.

      10             So, Ms. Marando, I do have a couple of

      11      questions for you.

      12             You met, during the course of the

      13      investigation, with a White homebuyer and a

      14      Black homebuyer, both of whom were looking for a

      15      house within 30 minutes of Port Jefferson, for up to

      16      $500,000.

      17             We're going to show a clip.

      18             Here is what you said to the White homebuyer.

      19             Can we roll that clip?

      20                (Video clip playing, and transcribed as

      21        follows:)

      22             AGENT ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  [Indiscernible.]

      23             It's okay.  I just -- I -- you know, you

      24      may -- you don't really know certain areas --

      25             THE TESTER:  Uh-huh.


       1             AGENT ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  -- what you're

       2      going to get next to.

       3             THE TESTER:  Right.

       4             AGENT ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  That's the problem.

       5             And there's pockets, Port Jeff, too, you

       6      know, down by the train, like, in the area there.

       7             What I say is, always to women, "Follow the

       8      school bus."

       9             You know, that's what I would say:

      10             Follow the school bus.  See the moms that are

      11      hanging out on the corners.

      12             Wherever you're going to buy diapers, you

      13      know, during the day, go at 10:00 at night, and you

      14      see if you like [indiscernible].

      15             And, really, that's the way to really take a

      16      look [indiscernible].

      17             I tell women this all the time.

      18             THE TESTER:  Right, right.

      19             AGENT ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  There was one fella

      20      who would -- like, insisted on this house.  And the

      21      wife was pregnant, had a little one.

      22             I said to him:  I can't say anything, but

      23      I encourage you, I want you to go there at 10:00 at

      24      night, with your wife, to buy diapers.  Go to that

      25      7/11.


       1             They didn't buy there.  You know?

       2             THE TESTER:  No, that's great.

       3             AGENT JOY TUXSON:  I have to say it without

       4      saying it.  You know, you have the knowledge of the

       5      areas, you know.

       6             THE TESTER:  Yes.

       7             AGENT ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  And, look, I care

       8      for families.  I'm a family person.

       9             THE TESTER:  Right.

      10             AGENT ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  I care for my

      11      children.

      12             And, you know, when you're putting them in

      13      other people's care, like, take first-time

      14      homebuyers out all the time.

      15             I don't want to use the word "steer," but

      16      I try to [indiscernible] [simultaneous talking] --

      17             THE TESTER:  No, no, listen, absolutely.

      18      That's --

      19             AGENT ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  -- in the areas.

      20             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you.

      21             So, Ms. Marando, let me begin by asking you:

      22      What did you specifically think that the White

      23      homebuyer and his partner would observe about the

      24      mothers who are waiting for the school bus, that

      25      would be relevant to their choice of housing?


       1             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  Well, they were

       2      transitioning here to Long Island.  And seeing moms

       3      at the school bus are just a great resource of

       4      information.

       5             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

       6             And you -- so you were -- but you said they

       7      should follow the school bus and look at the moms.

       8             You're suggesting that, the idea --

       9             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  No, I didn't say "look at

      10      the moms."

      11             I said "see the moms."

      12             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Right, [simultaneous

      13      talking] --

      14             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  And [simultaneous

      15      talking] --

      16             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- you can see them as

      17      they follow the school bus.

      18             What was it that they were supposed to see?

      19             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  Well, "following the

      20      school bus" was just referencing that they would get

      21      to know the route, and how long that the son would

      22      be on the bus, because I believe he was coming out

      23      with the son.

      24             And if you're following the school bus, you

      25      will get a better idea of how long the children will


       1      be on the bus, how many stops to the bus -- to the

       2      school.

       3             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Why would you -- why would

       4      you -- why would you look at the moms along the way?

       5             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  I didn't say -- I said:

       6      See the moms hanging out in the corners.  You can

       7      get out and talk to them, because they're a great

       8      resource.

       9             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  I think you said you'd see

      10      who is hanging out at 10:00.

      11             I think you said that they should follow --

      12      we can run it again if you want, but I think you

      13      said, they should follow the school bus and look at

      14      the moms along the route.

      15             Again, it's hard to -- it's hard to hear that

      16      any other way than, there may be some kinds of

      17      people that you can observe that are the kind of

      18      people you want to live with, and other kinds of

      19      people that you can observe, by passing them by at

      20      the school bus stop, that you don't want to live.

      21             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  Absolutely not.

      22             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  Do you see

      23      [simultaneous talking] --

      24             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  That's not what

      25      I [simultaneous talking] --


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  You said you don't want to

       2      use the word "steer."

       3             Why didn't you want to use that word?

       4             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  I shouldn't have used

       5      that word.

       6             I know that I don't steer my clients, ever.

       7             And he -- we were talking in the context of,

       8      he was speaking about the university, or not wanting

       9      to live near the college kids.

      10             So that's why I referenced, well, you know,

      11      to go down to a local store at 10:30 at night, or

      12      wherever you're going to go, and run an errand.

      13             And when you're going at 10:30, 11:00 at

      14      night and you're near an university, if it is a

      15      college town, and he was specific that that's -- he

      16      did not want a college town, well, then maybe that's

      17      not where they wanted to live.

      18             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Do you think saying -- do

      19      you think saying the word "steer" or not saying the

      20      word "steer" is relevant to whether you're violating

      21      the law?

      22             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  I should have not used

      23      the word "steer."

      24             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay, but do you think

      25      that -- that's probably correct.


       1             But do you think that -- that whether you use

       2      the word or not use the word is relevant to the

       3      question of whether you're violating the

       4      fair-housing laws?

       5             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  I know I shouldn't have

       6      used the word.  And I don't think I -- I didn't

       7      violate any laws because I was being clear with both

       8      my testers that I do not steer.

       9             And I wanted them to understand that.

      10             But if you do have some information, and

      11      they're asking you a question about a community,

      12      offering the information is not steering.

      13             It's helping a buyer make an informed

      14      decision.

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Why -- why did you say --

      16      why did you say you need to "say it without saying

      17      it"?

      18             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  I'm sorry, say that

      19      again?

      20             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  You said in the clip we

      21      just watched, that you need to -- "I need to say it

      22      without saying it," is what you said.

      23             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  Right, because --

      24             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  What does that mean?

      25             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  -- well, buying a house


       1      is, you know, probably the biggest purchase that a

       2      buyer is going to make.  And I want them to make an

       3      informed decision.

       4             I cannot say it.  I do not steer.

       5             And perhaps they could use other resources to

       6      help them make that decision.

       7             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Isn't "saying it without

       8      saying it" a viola -- isn't it a violation of the

       9      law if you impart information --

      10             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  I wasn't --

      11             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- implicitly, if you use

      12      coded language, if you -- I mean, that -- "saying it

      13      without saying" almost seems like a textbook

      14      definition of what we sometimes call "coded

      15      language" for certain realities in communities.

      16             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  I did not use any coded

      17      language to help make up any composition of any

      18      neighborhood.  I didn't.

      19             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  What did you mean by

      20      "saying it without saying it"?

      21             ROSEMARIE MARANDO:  I believe I was speaking

      22      with, I guess it was Mr. Samuels with that.  And

      23      I cannot steer, I will not steer.

      24             And I let him know that, I guess, when we

      25      were talking about the 7/11, or where he can go make


       1      some errands, and just get a better idea for the

       2      community.

       3             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Turning to Mr. Eldridge,

       4      as somebody with a leadership position in this firm,

       5      do you believe that brokers, quote, saying it

       6      without saying, is appropriate? is it legal?

       7             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  I'm sorry, Senator?

       8             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Do you believe, as

       9      somebody with a leadership position in this

      10      organization, that your brokers should be telling

      11      potential homebuyers that they need to say it

      12      without saying it?

      13             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  Well, I'm not part of her

      14      organization, Senator.

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Oh, sorry.  Forgive me.

      16             Oh, sorry.  Our panels have been mostly --

      17      let me ask -- ask you:  As leadership -- as a

      18      leader --

      19             I forgot Ms. Marando was originally going to

      20      be on a different panel.

      21             -- as -- do you -- having just seen that

      22      material today, and recognizing that you may not

      23      have the full context, and maybe not had an

      24      opportunity to speak with Ms. Marando about it

      25      previously, but do you believe that a broker


       1      mentioning that they shouldn't steer people, and

       2      saying that out loud, that "I can't say 'steer,' and

       3      I don't like to use that word," does that -- is that

       4      a practice that you think is appropriate?

       5             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  Senator, it's a hard

       6      question for me to answer without having any

       7      background.

       8             I mean, I wouldn't say to someone, that

       9      I can't say -- I can't talk to you about this

      10      because it's steering, but I'm going to talk to you

      11      anyway.

      12             So I'm not certain her circumstances, so it's

      13      a tough question to answer for me.

      14             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

      15             Again, I'm -- my time's up.

      16             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  [Indiscernible] is,

      17      I wouldn't steer anyone.

      18             And if your talk -- if you're talking about

      19      steering, you're doing steering, no, you shouldn't

      20      be doing that.

      21             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  You shouldn't be

      22      mentioning steering, and -- and mentioning that you

      23      can't do it.  That you don't like to call it that,

      24      anything you're doing.

      25             Is that a fair statement?


       1             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  Again, Senator,

       2      I wouldn't go beyond saying, we don't -- I wouldn't

       3      talk about steering, and I wouldn't advise my agents

       4      to tell people, you know, to talk about steering.

       5             So I don't know her circumstances.

       6             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

       7             I -- let me just conclude there.

       8             But, again, I think that, if I were in a

       9      family, and I were told that one of the things that

      10      people should do before they decide whether to move

      11      to my community, is follow the school bus and look

      12      at the mothers of our families, you know, it's

      13      hard -- I think it would be hard to interpret that

      14      as anything other than an insult to that community.

      15             But I'll leave it there.

      16             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you,

      17      Senator Kavanaugh.

      18             I think that concludes our questions.

      19             So I want to thank each of you on the panel

      20      for coming and participating, and answering our

      21      questions in a forthright manner.

      22             I appreciate it, and wish you all a good rest

      23      of the day.

      24             ALLAN R. ELDRIDGE:  Thank you.

      25             CHRISTOPHER HUBBARD:  Thank you.


       1             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Next up, so we will return

       2      to Panel 4, which I'm told is now available.

       3             So these are a couple of fair-housing experts

       4      that we're looking to hear from, the first of which

       5      is Dr. Jacob Farber [sic], and the second of which

       6      is Dr. Max Besbris.

       7             DR. MAX BESBRIS:  So, Senator, I'm going to

       8      be speaking on behalf of both myself and Dr. Faber.

       9             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.  Is -- he is joining

      10      us, though.  I do see him.

      11             Okay, very good.

      12             If I may, just to be consistent, ask each of

      13      you to please raise your right hand.

      14             Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the

      15      truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

      16             DR. MAX BESBRIS:  Yes.

      17             DR. JACOB FABER:  (Nods head.)

      18             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

      19             Please proceed.

      20             DR. MAX BESBRIS:  So I'd like to start by

      21      thanking the Andra Stanley of Senator Kavanagh's

      22      office, and thank the committee for hearing our

      23      testimony, for and addressing such a pressing issue.

      24             So my name Max Besbris.  I'm an assistant

      25      professor sociology at the University of Wisconsin,


       1      Madison, where I'm affiliated with the Center for

       2      Demography and Ecology, and the Center for Financial

       3      Security.

       4             For the past 10 years I have studied

       5      real-estate agents in New York State.

       6             And in a new book called "Upsold," which was

       7      published by the University of Chicago Press, I show

       8      that real-estate agents are key for understanding

       9      various aspects of urban inequality.

      10             With me today is Dr. Jacob Faber.

      11             Dr. Faber is an associate professor of

      12      sociology and public service at NYU, where he is

      13      affiliated with the Furman Center for Real Estate

      14      and Urban Policy.  He is an expert in housing

      15      markets and foreclosures, the history and

      16      present-day consequences of residential racial

      17      segregation, and mortgage redlining.

      18             Together, he and I have conducted multiple

      19      studies of discrimination in housing and other

      20      consumer markets in New York and across the country.

      21             The findings of "Newsday's" investigation

      22      into racial steering by real-estate agents on

      23      Long Island are, sadly, not surprising.

      24             Discrimination in housing is a problem across

      25      the United States.


       1             Study after study has demonstrated that

       2      non-White home-seekers, particularly Black and

       3      Latino ones, are at a disadvantage relative to

       4      Whites in terms of the quality and the housing made

       5      available to them, and the resources of the

       6      neighborhoods in which they are shown available

       7      house units.

       8             We want to stress that discrimination is not

       9      only harmful to the individuals who are unable to

      10      access housing as a result of that discrimination,

      11      but that discrimination itself in the housing market

      12      perpetuates racial inequality and segregation more

      13      generally.

      14             By directing home-seekers of color away from

      15      White neighborhoods, racial steering helps maintain

      16      segregation.

      17             A wide body of research has established the

      18      negative effects of segregation.  These effects are

      19      pernicious and widespread.

      20             Residential segregation leads to adverse

      21      health outcomes, lower levels of economic mobility,

      22      poorer quality of schools, fewer community

      23      institutions, uneven exposure to environmental

      24      pollution, higher crime, and lower housing values.

      25             All of these social ills fall


       1      disproportionately on people and communities of

       2      color.

       3             We can clearly see the consequences of

       4      persistent segregation and inequality in the

       5      dramatic impact of the ongoing pandemic that has

       6      affected communities of color in New York State and

       7      nationwide.

       8             In our own research, we have found that

       9      real-estate agents in New York State are less likely

      10      to work in Black and Latino neighborhoods.

      11             Many neighborhoods with more real-estate

      12      agents experience higher increases in home value

      13      over time.

      14             While we found that few real-estate agents

      15      outwardly support residential racial segregation, we

      16      also found that agents' sole concern about racial

      17      steering was getting caught rather than the impacts

      18      of their discriminatory behavior.

      19             In other words, agents were worried about

      20      enforcement of existing fair-housing laws, and often

      21      sought to avoid explicit talk of race with their

      22      clients.

      23             However, as we've noticed, they often used

      24      coded language about the racial composition of

      25      different neighborhoods.


       1             And in our work, as well as in the "Newsday"

       2      investigation, reveals that agents continue to steer

       3      home-seekers based on their race and ethnicity.

       4             What this indicates, is that agents broadly

       5      do not understand or appreciate the full scope of

       6      what discrimination is or why it is harmful.

       7             In some ways, this is not surprising.

       8             The topic of fair housing constitutes less

       9      than 5 percent of the curriculum of the

      10      State-mandated course needed to become a licensed

      11      real-estate salesperson.

      12             Moreover, there's very little oversight in

      13      how these courses are taught.

      14             When I, for example, sat in on multiple

      15      fair-housing courses, precious time was taken by

      16      instructors making flippant jokes about

      17      discrimination, debating with students about whether

      18      or not different ethnic or religious groups

      19      constituted racial categories, and what kinds of

      20      individuals are more or less racist.

      21             This leads us to suggest that stronger, more

      22      robust educational requirements are desperately

      23      needed.  Not only should a larger portion of the

      24      curriculum be dedicated to fair housing, but more

      25      education, overall, should be required.


       1             The 75 hours of required classroom time is

       2      not onerous compared to other states.

       3             Obtaining a real-estate salesperson license

       4      in Texas, for example, requires 180 hours of

       5      instruction.

       6             So, the State could require more education on

       7      fair housing without burdening those who want to

       8      become a listed real-estate salesperson.

       9             But additional education will only work if

      10      the content of that education is better regulated.

      11             The State must have higher standards for

      12      licensing real-estate instructors, and should do

      13      more to ensure that what they teach students is not

      14      simply rote memorization.

      15             Moreover, licensees must receive better

      16      training about what to do when their clients ask

      17      about the racial composition of neighborhoods or

      18      express racist preferences.

      19             Simply ignoring race in racism itself

      20      perpetuates racially-unequal outcomes.

      21             Because real-estate agents are still central

      22      to how we find housing, it seems more than

      23      reasonable to expect real-estate agents to know the

      24      law, and know why it is harmful when they

      25      discriminate.


       1             We, therefore, propose that agents learn not

       2      simply to ignore questions of race from clients,

       3      but, instead, to confront racism, be transparent

       4      with their clients about an agent's responsibilities

       5      by abiding by fair-housing laws.

       6             While we believe that efforts to better

       7      educate real-estate professionals and the public are

       8      essential, we also need additional tools to ensure

       9      fair-housing access.

      10             The "Newsday" article was an excellent

      11      example of the importance of housing audits for

      12      exposure to discrimination.

      13             Dr. Faber and I have conducted similar

      14      research, and have shown that this kinds of bias --

      15      these kinds of biases are pervasive.

      16             So, in closing, I'll say:

      17             That the secretary of states' and attorney

      18      generals' and governors' offices should conduct

      19      regular audits of housing markets across the state

      20      to identify and track bias against people of color,

      21      as well as other people of protected classes.

      22             Testing can be a valuable and relatively

      23      inexpensive tool to identify where discrimination

      24      is, more or less, prevalent.

      25             Dr. Faber and I are more than willing to


       1      assist in this effort.

       2             I know my time is up, but the last thing that

       3      I'll advocate for is more funding for housing

       4      counselors.

       5             Past research has shown that home-seekers who

       6      use housing counselors during their search find

       7      better-quality housing in less-segregated

       8      neighborhoods, and tend to say in their homes for

       9      longer.

      10             We want to thank the committee for the

      11      invitation to testify, and for beginning to engage

      12      in a very serious problem.

      13             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you, Dr. Besbris, and

      14      thank you, Dr. Faber, for being here.

      15             I'm going to turn it over to

      16      Senator Kevin Thomas.

      17             SENATOR THOMAS:  Sorry.  I pressed the wrong

      18      button.

      19             So got a quick question.

      20             We heard from a number of licensed brokers

      21      throughout this hearing today.  And, they apparently

      22      supervise thousands of sales agents -- right? --

      23      that go around selling the homes and everything.

      24             And they say that they can supervise these

      25      individuals, even though they're in the thousands.


       1             What do you have to say about that?

       2             DR. MAX BESBRIS:  I would say that I think

       3      the oversight that they're referring to tends to be

       4      quite lax, if available at all.

       5             I think brokers have a large incentive to

       6      have their agents make deals because that's what

       7      makes them money.

       8             And I think as long as they're bringing in

       9      sales, in my experience and in my research, I don't

      10      seem to see a ton of -- let's put it this way:

      11      There's a lot of variation in what brokers think

      12      oversight is, and how they relate to their

      13      real-estate agents that they supervise.

      14             SENATOR THOMAS:  Do you believe that there

      15      should be a limit on how many agents can work under

      16      a specific license?

      17             DR. MAX BESBRIS:  It's something that

      18      I haven't thought about in terms of policy, but it

      19      does seem reasonable to expect that one particular

      20      broker can't legitimately supervise more than a

      21      certain number of agents, or give them the kinds of

      22      advice when they're confronted with problems,

      23      whether it's not just in fair housing, but in any

      24      kind of aspect of doing the work.

      25             And so, if we expect brokers to have regular


       1      meetings with their agents -- right? -- for their

       2      agents to have free lines with communication to

       3      their brokers, then, yes, I would say it seems

       4      extremely reasonable to put some cap on the

       5      number -- right? -- that brokers are able to,

       6      technically, supervise if we're seeing that that

       7      supervision tends to be pretty weak.

       8             SENATOR THOMAS:  Thank you.

       9             Senator Kavanaugh.

      10             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Great.

      11             Thank you very much for your testimony, and

      12      for all of your work.

      13             And, you know, as you mentioned, you've been

      14      working with Andra Stanley in our office on these

      15      issues.

      16             And we appreciate all of your input.

      17             So just to review -- you have very

      18      thoughtfully laid out the issues here.

      19             Just to [indiscernible] -- the -- the -- the

      20      proposes -- the things that you're proposing that we

      21      consider are, additional training, better training,

      22      that focuses on the effects of discrimination, a --

      23      making sure that those things are actually mandated

      24      and not just sort of optional parts of training.

      25             We had -- we had somebody testify before that


       1      the people that were doing this training on

       2      Long Island were fired, at least by one firm.  They

       3      were through some multiple listing service, and new

       4      trainers have come in.

       5             Is there an issue of the quality of -- of --

       6      of trainers?

       7             Are there states that are reviewing that

       8      certifying trainers, that sort of thing?

       9             DR. MAX BESBRIS:  There's definitely an issue

      10      with quality, in my investigation of housing, of

      11      real-estate licensing classes.  I think the quality

      12      of that instruction, overall, tends to be pretty

      13      poor.

      14             From my understanding, the requirements to

      15      become an instructor for licensing real-estate

      16      classes is not particularly onerous.

      17             You simply have to have worked in the

      18      industry for a fair amount of time, and take a test

      19      on your own.

      20             So this is -- when we're advocating, I think,

      21      for more education, this is obviously something that

      22      needs to happen at multiple levels.  Right?  It

      23      needs to happen, certainly, for people who are

      24      seeking to become licensed real-estate salespeople.

      25             But absolutely what we're advocating for is


       1      more regulation of instruction -- right? -- and how

       2      that actually occurs, which includes, I think,

       3      probably more information, more education, and

       4      stricter standards for people who are seeking to

       5      become instructors in licensing real-estate schools.

       6             DR. JACOB FABER:  Let me add one quick

       7      addition to that.

       8             It was -- one of the things that was made

       9      dramatically clear by the testimony from earlier,

      10      real-estate agents, he just -- and Max mentioned

      11      this in our opening statement, is just a complete

      12      misunderstanding of what discrimination is, and how

      13      it works.

      14             You know, being a person of color or having

      15      people of color, your friends, circle, or family, or

      16      your office, doesn't preclude you from acting in

      17      discriminatory ways, nor does what -- you know,

      18      what's in your heart, which is something that

      19      I heard come up over and over again in the -- in the

      20      testimony.

      21             But intent is irrelevant if the patterns of

      22      behavior --

      23             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  And not to --

      24             DR. JACOB FABER:  -- are what [simultaneous

      25      talking] --


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- not to put too fine a

       2      point on it, but we made that point a few times,

       3      that the law certainly doesn't talk about what's in

       4      your heart or intent.

       5             But there -- there is research that

       6      demonstrates that people can be engaging in

       7      discriminatory behavior without a conscious animus

       8      towards any of the people they're dealing with?

       9             DR. JACOB FABER:  Absolutely.

      10             There's a very, very large literature on

      11      what's generally called "implicit bias."

      12             That, you know, there's a lot of cognitive

      13      processing that all of us are doing all the time,

      14      and much of it we're not aware of.

      15             And so even people acting in the best intent

      16      can still carry around these biases around race,

      17      gender, and other protected classes.

      18             And there's numerous studies connecting these

      19      measurements of implicit bias with mistreatment of

      20      people of color.

      21             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  You mentioned that -- and

      22      I thought this was really important -- this notion

      23      that brokers need to know from the training not

      24      just, sort of, how to -- like, what the law says,

      25      and how to avoid being found to have violated it,


       1      but the effects of discriminatory behavior.

       2             Can you talk a little bit more about -- you

       3      know, for our -- for our purpose, and for everybody

       4      who is watching, can you talk a little bit more

       5      about why housing discrimination is so problematic?

       6             DR. MAX BESBRIS:  Jacob, do you want to go

       7      ahead?

       8             DR. JACOB FABER:  Why don't you go.

       9             DR. MAX BESBRIS:  So to the first part of

      10      your question, Senator, I think the issue about what

      11      the content of the classes needs to entail and

      12      include, is that, you know, these classes basically

      13      say, this is what "discrimination" is:  It's

      14      treating people differently based on their race or

      15      their gender, or whatever category.

      16             Don't do it.

      17             Right?

      18             And you should remember, here's the date of

      19      the passage of the Fair Housing Act.

      20             Here's the list of categories that you can't

      21      discriminate against.

      22             That's obviously all information we want

      23      real-estate agents, I think, to know on some level.

      24             But without, I think, a firm understanding of

      25      why discrimination is harmful to communities --


       1      right? -- then there's not a lot of incentive,

       2      really, for real-estate agents to think deeply about

       3      what their actions do.

       4             Right?

       5             And so there's a lot of research showing

       6      that, in communities across the United States,

       7      real-estate agents are very quick to categorize

       8      people based on their race and match them to

       9      particular neighborhoods.

      10             Right?

      11             And like I said in my comments, the reason

      12      that segregation -- that discrimination, inclusive

      13      segregation, is so harmful is these myriad effects

      14      that it has, not just on the people who get the, you

      15      know, one housing -- one housing unit versus

      16      another, but on the effects of the community.

      17             And so I definitely believe that if

      18      real-estate agents had more training about why

      19      segregation is harmful -- what segregation is, why

      20      it's harmful, I think, hopefully -- right? -- they

      21      would at least be thinking a little more deeply

      22      about what the consequences of their own actions

      23      are, because I think, real-estate agents, they have

      24      these incentives to close deals.

      25             Right?


       1             They're doing this because it's their

       2      economic imperative, to some extent, and they're

       3      doing it in quick ways -- right? -- and it's easy to

       4      categorize people, it's easy to categorize

       5      neighborhoods.

       6             Right?

       7             But trying to get at those implicit biases

       8      that Dr. Faber was just talking about, we can do

       9      that in classes.

      10             Right?

      11             We can provide them with very -- you know,

      12      not a ton more information, just a little bit, and

      13      it might allow them to reflect, somewhat --

      14      right? -- on what their actions are and the

      15      consequences of them.

      16             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  My time is up.

      17             I may have a few more questions if there's

      18      more -- but I want to turn it back over to the chair

      19      first.

      20             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

      21             I'll go to Senator Krueger.

      22             You need to unmute yourself and turn on your

      23      video, Senator.

      24             SENATOR KRUGER:  Am I here now?

      25             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Your voice is here.


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  We can hear you, but do

       2      not see you.

       3             SENATOR KAPLAN:  Okay.  I'm trying to get the

       4      audio -- the video on also.

       5             Here we go.

       6             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  There you go.

       7             SENATOR KAPLAN:  Thank you.

       8             I want to thank the chairs of this committee

       9      and the staff work that went into this hearing

      10      today.

      11             I have actually been listening all day.

      12             And I pretty much heard every single

      13      real-estate agent we had, and their bosses, tell us

      14      that "Newsday" must have been completely wrong,

      15      everything that "Newsday" wrote up was wrong,

      16      they've now all been retrained, and yet they still

      17      can't actually explain the definitions of what it

      18      would be to be steering people or discriminating.

      19             So I wanted to ask you two experts, did you

      20      read the "Newsday" results?

      21             Do you think it was all made up?

      22             Or don't you think, as I do, that this is all

      23      true?

      24             Do either -- either of you read the

      25      "Newsday" --


       1             DR. MAX BESBRIS:  Yes.

       2             SENATOR KAPLAN:  -- expos�?

       3             DR. JACOB FABER:  Yes.

       4             And I was actually in communication with the

       5      reporters who were doing it, because I was in the

       6      middle of a similar study of discrimination in the

       7      housing market myself.

       8             And, you know, the findings that they came

       9      to, as Dr. Besbris said earlier, are no surprise.

      10             You know, virtually, every study of this type

      11      shows discrimination against people of color in the

      12      housing market.

      13             And the evidence that they -- that they

      14      provided, and that was shown in clips today during

      15      this hearing, were incredibly damning, I think.

      16             And I, with you, was kind of amazed and

      17      appalled at the same time about the numerous efforts

      18      to avoid naming or describing a certain behavior,

      19      while also claiming that they don't participate in

      20      it.

      21             And how could you know whether or not you're

      22      doing something you don't know how to define.

      23             So, you know, the ability of each of these

      24      agencies to police and educate themselves just is

      25      wholly inadequate.


       1             SENATOR KAPLAN:  And that's exactly what

       2      I also wanted to say.

       3             I think the system we have clearly is fully

       4      and completely inadequate, and that these agencies

       5      should not be doing or developing their own training

       6      materials and testing their own people, because

       7      I just don't think they're prepared to even admit

       8      there's an issue out there for them.

       9             I'm also very curious whether you have

      10      seen -- you're both professors from different parts

      11      of the country, and who are, you know, really expert

      12      in this.

      13             What models have you seen that have been

      14      effective in turning around the industry in any part

      15      of this country?

      16             Because I think, as the Senate Democrats, and

      17      Republicans who might be joining us on this hearing,

      18      we want to make sure we come up with a model that's

      19      actually going to get at the problem and solve it,

      20      rather than have another hearing in five years and

      21      learn nothing has gotten better.

      22             So, would you recommend a specific path for

      23      us to get there, either through regulation, through

      24      statute, or even through a specific curriculum that

      25      might be required of real-estate agents and brokers


       1      in our state?

       2             DR. MAX BESBRIS:  So I think one thing that

       3      Dr. Faber and I are -- are -- certainly would

       4      advocate for, like he mentioned, is more testing --

       5      right? -- more testing across the state in

       6      communities -- right? -- because you will see some

       7      variation.

       8             I think there are some places where

       9      real-estate agents may be more or less prone to

      10      discriminatory behavior.

      11             And -- but only through testing would we be

      12      able to identify which communities need more or less

      13      interaction.

      14             Right?

      15             So testing is certainly one.

      16             And then something I alluded to you at the

      17      end of my prepared remarks was that, you're asking,

      18      Senator, about interventions that seem to have

      19      worked in other parts of the country.

      20             And, unfortunately, there's not a lot of

      21      great research about what's to be done, because

      22      I think this problem goes beyond simply great

      23      training for real-estate agents.

      24             I think that can be better, that can

      25      improve -- right? -- the issue.  But this is


       1      obviously something systemic -- right? -- about

       2      biases in the housing market.  Segregation is a

       3      longstanding geographic issue, one that is not going

       4      to be solved simply by changing real-estate agent

       5      behavior.

       6             But one thing that has shown to be somewhat

       7      effective is the use of housing counselors and

       8      taxpayer dollars for nonprofit groups that advertise

       9      integrated, safe places to live that have remained

      10      integrated for long periods of time.

      11             So there's one particular community,

      12      Oak Park, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago,

      13      which Chicago is a very segregated place, a very

      14      segregated city, a very segregated region.

      15             But this one town has been able to be

      16      relatively racially integrated for quite a long

      17      period of time.

      18             And there's some research indicating that

      19      there's a housing council, nonprofit, that's been

      20      set up there for at least the past 30 years.

      21             And one thing that it does, is it advertises

      22      Oak Park as a great place to live to home-seekers,

      23      but it also provides housing counseling to people

      24      moving from other places to Oak Park and within

      25      Oak Park.


       1             So providing more information for consumers

       2      about where housing is available, this is one thing

       3      that the State could do.

       4             Right?

       5             The State could actually mandate that

       6      real-estate agents provide more information, whether

       7      it's in an online clearinghouse or in other forms of

       8      communication, about all available housing to

       9      consumers.

      10             Right?

      11             So if the housing market is going to remain a

      12      market, one thing that we absolutely want as

      13      consumers is to have more access to information.

      14             And, right now, real-estate agents have a

      15      great deal of discretion about where they share

      16      their information about available listings, with

      17      whom they share it with.

      18             One thing that municipalities and the State

      19      certainly could do, is mandate that that information

      20      gets aggregated to a higher level and is more

      21      accessible to broader set of consumers.

      22             SENATOR KAPLAN:  That's a very interesting

      23      idea.

      24             I lived in Chicago.  I remember Oak Park

      25      being somewhat different than many of the other


       1      parts of Chicago.

       2             Thank you, both, for testifying today.

       3             Thank you, Mr. Chairs.

       4             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

       5             I'll grab the mic here for a question.

       6             One of the many remarkable insights that

       7      we've gleaned from today is the simple fact that it

       8      seems like no one, no agents, after, I think it's

       9      86 matching tests were conducted by "Newsday," and

      10      all of these findings of discrimination, people on

      11      videotape, no one was fired.

      12             No one.

      13             And even other, you know, disciplinary action

      14      that, you know, maybe stopped short of firing.

      15             No disciplinary action.

      16             Can I get your reaction to that?

      17             Look, you two are experts in this subject.

      18             I am a mere layperson trying to help run a

      19      hearing, and look at this issue as a legislator.

      20             Do you think this is -- is this part of a

      21      pattern that you've -- you know, in other regions

      22      around the country you've looked at, where, these

      23      agents, they just walk away from these studies and

      24      from these tests without any repercussion?

      25             Your general reaction.


       1             DR. JACOB FABER:  So, for me, it was kind of

       2      both shocking and not for the reasons that -- many

       3      of the reasons that we've talked about already, that

       4      this kind of discrimination is pervasive in housing

       5      markets across the country, and all kind of markets

       6      as well.

       7             But the -- it felt particularly brazen to

       8      hear several people testify to committing acts that

       9      are plainly illegal, like, talking about schools.

      10             The one real-estate agent saying, I forget

      11      the exact, it was something, like, Latinos are

      12      taking over this neighborhood, or school district.

      13             You know, plainly illegal activities with,

      14      you know, very little remorse and no -- and no

      15      discipline.

      16             And this is -- you know, this is a pattern

      17      that we see whenever industry is asked to police its

      18      own behavior.

      19             DR. MAX BESBRIS:  I would add to that, that

      20      I think the issue -- right? -- is not that these

      21      individual agents haven't been fired.

      22             I mean, the real-estate agent-brokerage

      23      relationship is independent contracting.  You know,

      24      they could very easily, sort of, go to another

      25      brokerage.


       1             Right?

       2             It really is incumbent upon the State to do a

       3      better job of regulating licensure.

       4             Right?

       5             And so I believe it was Senator Thomas

       6      -- right? -- who had the question about brokerage

       7      oversight, which I think is certainly part of this.

       8             Right?

       9             And I think some of what you're getting at,

      10      Senator, is that these brokers aren't paying any

      11      attention, and so why would they care even if their

      12      agent is sort of caught, you know, being -- uh --

      13      uh -- steering, breaking the law?

      14             But, ultimately, I think it's really going to

      15      be an issue that is incumbent -- it's incumbent upon

      16      the State, I think, to do the regulating, because,

      17      as Dr. Faber alluded to, whenever you ask an

      18      industry to police itself, it's, you know, plainly

      19      obvious that they -- they don't -- they never --

      20      they very rarely do a good job of it.

      21             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Understood.

      22             Senator Kavanaugh, do you have anything?

      23             You had follow-ups, I think.

      24             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Just one, and I alluded to

      25      this earlier.


       1             But, just for the record today, and for

       2      anybody who's watching, and, I mean, this is I guess

       3      maybe particularly for Dr. Faber, but, Dr. Besbris,

       4      you could also jump in.

       5             The effect of housing discrimination on

       6      families who are excluded from particular, who are

       7      steered to certain communities, both in the short

       8      run and the long run in terms of their wealth

       9      accumulation, in terms of their well-being, could

      10      you talk a little more about that?

      11             DR. JACOB FABER:  Sure.

      12             So, you know, one of the things that social

      13      scientists have really provided mounting evidence

      14      for, over the past decade or so, is that place

      15      matters tremendously.

      16             Where you grow up can have an enormous effect

      17      on a whole host of life outcomes: educational

      18      opportunity, environmental quality, access to

      19      employment, et cetera.

      20             And because where you live matters in all of

      21      these arenas, you know, how the housing-search

      22      process sorts different people into different types

      23      of neighborhoods in a racialized manner carries

      24      forward this inequality.

      25             You mentioned the wealth gap, which is


       1      something that is larger today than it was

       2      three decades ago, and a great deal of that has to

       3      do with the way that residential segregation has not

       4      just segregated individuals, but it's segregated the

       5      opportunity for wealth accumulation.

       6             And then that wealth accumulation, of course,

       7      you know, translates into better schools,

       8      intergenerational transfers of status through

       9      investments in entrepreneurship and education.

      10             So there's really -- this is a really

      11      enormous problem that is, you know, reciprocal in

      12      the way that it recreates inequality over time.

      13             And we know, of course, that racial

      14      discrimination, which "Newsday" has shown, which

      15      Dr. Besbris and I have shown, plays an important

      16      role in sorting individuals across neighborhoods.

      17             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  We've been talking a lot

      18      about overt discrimination here today, because, of

      19      course, that was the subject of the investigation.

      20             But, you know, there's been this thing --

      21      ongoing thing in the last couple of years, where the

      22      Obama administration had recommitted itself to

      23      Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing.

      24             The Trump Administration has abrogated its

      25      commit -- the federal government's commitment to


       1      that.

       2             Is that something that we should be doing?

       3             Obviously, should we be doing it at the

       4      national level? should we be doing it at the state

       5      level? should we be incorporating obligations for

       6      state and local government and other participants in

       7      housing markets, to Affirmatively Further Fair

       8      Housing?

       9             DR. JACOB FABER:  Absolutely.

      10             And I think that, you know, New York State

      11      can implement, you know, its own version of AFFH.

      12             And, you know, hopefully, conditional on a

      13      successful election this coming November, we can get

      14      the Obama rule back in place.

      15             I would say another place -- policy lever

      16      here is, is -- you know, and this is not just me the

      17      researcher talking here, but, the data collection.

      18             So, you know, the Home Mortgage Disclosure

      19      Act requires that every mortgage lender provide data

      20      to the federal government on every single

      21      application that the lender receives, and basic

      22      demographic information about the applicant, and

      23      then what happens to the application, whether or not

      24      it gets approved, and the price of that loan.

      25             And something like that for the real-estate


       1      industry could also shed tremendous light on

       2      discriminatory patterns that, to your point and your

       3      question earlier about implicit bias, often happens

       4      without intent.

       5             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  So you would -- you would

       6      require brokers to gather data on the ethnic

       7      composition of their clientele on some of the

       8      outcomes of -- of their contacts with those folks,

       9      and then, on an aggregate level, we could see how

      10      different parties are -- are -- are performing?

      11             Is that --

      12             DR. JACOB FABER:  Yeah, absolutely.

      13             I mean, we could see that on the aggregate

      14      level.  You could even see it on the firm level.

      15             You know, one way of addressing this problem

      16      is to not, you know, wait for investigative

      17      journalism's bombshells, but -- of showing

      18      discrimination, because we know every single study

      19      that has explored racial discrimination has shown

      20      it.

      21             So a way of addressing this proactively could

      22      take the form of reversing the roles of providing

      23      evidence in the situation.

      24             So assuming, or requiring, real-estate

      25      agencies to prove that they don't discriminate,


       1      rather than policing or search -- seeking out and

       2      then punishing discrimination.

       3             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  Thank you.

       4             My time is up.

       5             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you very much.

       6             I'm not seeing any other questions.

       7             I think you're free to go.

       8             Thank you very much for coming by, and your

       9      testimony.

      10             DR. MAX BESBRIS:  Thank you.

      11             DR. JACOB FABER:  Thank you.

      12             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you both for all of

      13      your work, and for joining us today:

      14             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  We are going to now take a

      15      15-minute break.

      16             We are probably a little past lunchtime.

      17             But, for those of us who have been here since

      18      the start, we're probably hungry.

      19             I know I am.

      20             So we'll be back at 2:45, to continue.

      21             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you,

      22      Senator Skoufis.

      23                (A recess was taken.)

      24                (The hearing resumed.)

      25             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay, welcome back.


       1             We are nearing the home stretch here.

       2             We are going to call Panel 7, which is

       3      comprised of Akhtar Somekh and Rosalind Resnick from

       4      Coldwell Banker.

       5             Okay, we have both of you.

       6             Very good.

       7             I -- who -- I -- I suspect you both have some

       8      opening remarks?

       9             Who would like to start?

      10             ROSALIND RESNICK:  I'm okay to start.

      11             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

      12             ROSALIND RESNICK:  Good afternoon, Senators.

      13             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Welcome.

      14             ROSALIND RESNICK:  My name is

      15      Rosalind Resnick.  I'm a real-estate salesperson in

      16      Great Neck, New York.

      17             I was asked to testify before the committee

      18      today in connection with a November 19 "Newsday"

      19      report.

      20             My attorney, John Mancebo of Tressler, LLP,

      21      is present with me today.

      22             I'd like to start off -- (audio

      23      interference).

      24             I would like to start off by telling each of

      25      you a little bit about myself.


       1             I was raised on Long Island.  I became a

       2      real-estate agent in 2015.  I've lived in Great Neck

       3      for 19 years.  I'm able to use my knowledge of the

       4      area, as well as Nassau County, Suffolk County, and

       5      Queens, sir, to help clients search for their dream

       6      home.

       7             I love my job.

       8             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  I apologize.  My mistake.

       9             I forgot to swear you both in before

      10      proceeding.

      11             So if you could both please raise your right

      12      hands, and then we can get to your remarks.

      13             Do you solemnly swear that you'll tell the

      14      truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

      15             ROSALIND RESNICK:  I do.

      16             AKHTAR SOMEKH:  I do.

      17             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

      18             Again, I apologize.

      19             Go ahead.

      20             ROSALIND RESNICK:  Can I continue?

      21             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Yes, yes.

      22             ROSALIND RESNICK:  I love my job.  I'm

      23      passionate about serving people.

      24             And I do understand the gravity of the

      25      decision of -- to purchase a home, and consider it


       1      to be a great honor to be given the opportunity to

       2      assist a client in this special process.

       3             10 months since the publication of the

       4      "Newsday" reporter has had a significant impact on

       5      my life.

       6             The allegations stem from tests conducted by

       7      their investigators approximately three years before

       8      the publication of the report.

       9             At the time of the tests, I had only been in

      10      the industry a little over a year, having switched

      11      careers to work in real-estate.

      12             I truly believe my lack of experience at the

      13      time the tests were conducted contributed to the

      14      issues we are discussing today.

      15             Since the issues raised in the "Newsday"

      16      report were brought to my attention, I worked to

      17      continuously improve myself professionally and

      18      personally.

      19             I have not been the subject of any complaint

      20      for any reason, not in the short time before the

      21      testing or in the years that followed.

      22             My ability to earn a living and my reputation

      23      is at stake.

      24             I'm here in the spirit of cooperation, and

      25      because I understand how important these issues are.


       1             In regards to the tests at issue, I was

       2      contacted by the first tester on June 3, 2016.

       3             I did not meet the second tester until more

       4      than nine months later, March 6, 2017.

       5             Although the testers provided similar

       6      information, they added significantly details during

       7      their conversations with me that impacted the

       8      listings generated for each.

       9             This was further impacted by the

      10      difference in available listings in the span

      11      of over nine months.

      12             Prior to each meeting, I researched potential

      13      home listings in hopes of being as prepared as

      14      possible for these potential clients.

      15             It was very early in my real-estate career

      16      and I was very eager.

      17             Because each of the testers seemed unfamiliar

      18      with Long Island, I provided each with an overview

      19      of the North Shore area.

      20             I also physically showed property listings to

      21      both of the testers, a fact which is missing from

      22      the "Newsday" report.

      23             My hope is that my testimony today provides a

      24      fuller picture of my interactions with the testers.

      25             I believe I did provide equal service to both


       1      testers.

       2             However, I would like to apologize to anyone

       3      who was offended by some of my comments.

       4             I take great pride in my profession, and I've

       5      worked very hard to build a reputation in the

       6      real-estate community that people can trust.

       7             Thank you for providing me with this

       8      opportunity to speak before you today.

       9             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you very much.

      10             We'll now hear from Ms. Somekh.

      11             And I apologize if I'm mispronouncing your

      12      name.

      13             AKHTAR SOMEKH:  Good afternoon.

      14             My name is Akhtar Somekh, and I'm a

      15      real-estate broker in Coldwell Banker in Great Neck,

      16      New York.

      17             I was asked to provide [indiscernible]

      18      testimony today about "Newsday" report on housing

      19      discrimination on Long Island.

      20             I would first like to provide some background

      21      about myself.

      22             As you can tell, probably, English is not my

      23      native language.  I was born and raised in Iran.

      24             In 1986 I move to United States with my

      25      family.  I had to leave Iran with my family because


       1      of discrimination and persecution we faced for our

       2      religion beliefs.

       3             When we arrived to the United States, my

       4      husband, our children, and myself settled in

       5      Great Neck, New York.

       6             Sadly, my husband passed away in 1994.

       7             This required me to not only raise my four

       8      children by establishing a career as a real-estate

       9      salesperson.

      10             All of my children attended in Great Neck

      11      public schools.

      12             And from almost 30 years I have had a

      13      wonderful career of helping people finding place to

      14      call home.

      15             I never received any complaint from any of my

      16      clients or prospective clients of any type of

      17      discriminations, or any other reason.

      18             And I always completed continued education in

      19      real estate.

      20             In November 2019, "Newsday" published their

      21      report.

      22             I understand in -- that 2016 "Newsday" sent

      23      two undercover testers.  I also understand that

      24      "Newsday" accused me of treating these two people

      25      differently.


       1             This allegation from "Newsday" was very

       2      hurtful because I have personally experienced the

       3      horrible damage that discrimination can cause, and

       4      I would never do that to any another human being.

       5             The "Newsday" report made an unfair

       6      interpretation of what happened during my

       7      interaction with these testers.

       8             I would like to take this opportunity to tell

       9      you about the two undercover testers that "Newsday"

      10      sent.

      11             On August 16, 2016, I met with

      12      Kelly Marchena [ph.].

      13             She told me she was looking to purchase a

      14      home for her, her husband, and her son in

      15      North Shore, an area around Great Neck.

      16             She said that she was looking for a place

      17      close to water, and her budget was $2 million.

      18             During the meeting with Ms. Marchena, I told

      19      her about different villages of Great Neck.

      20      Ms. Marchena was able to view properties that day,

      21      and I drove Ms. Marchena in my car to see houses.

      22             While in the car, Ms. Marchena asked if all

      23      of Great Neck was one school system or different

      24      villages.

      25             As I mentioned, I am very familiar with this


       1      school because my four children went to the local

       2      schools.

       3             In 2016, when meeting took place, there were

       4      changes being made by school to address class size

       5      that were confusing, even for residents living in

       6      Great Neck.

       7             What was shown in "Newsday" video was my

       8      attempt to answer Ms. Marchena question about the

       9      complicated optional zones created in that time.

      10             What the short "Newsday" clip does not show,

      11      that I was -- that I go on saying that the school in

      12      Great Neck, there's no difference between south or

      13      north schools, and all the same -- they are the

      14      same.

      15             About three months later, Ms. Ponceleon [ph.]

      16      contacted me.  She told me she wanted to meet about

      17      buying a house in North Shore area.

      18             On November 14, 2016, I met with

      19      Ms. Ponceleon.

      20             She also she is looking to buy a house close

      21      to water, and her budget was $2 million.

      22             I told to Ms. Ponceleon about nine different

      23      villages in Great Neck, and searched for listing to

      24      show to Ms. Ponceleon that day.  But she was not

      25      available to do so during that meeting.


       1             Ms. Ponceleon never asked me any questions

       2      about school.

       3             It is important that you know that the

       4      "Newsday" [indiscernible] report mentioned that

       5      there -- we had another scheduled meeting with

       6      Ms. Ponceleon a few days later, and I drove her to

       7      view some houses.

       8             According to -- [indiscernible] second

       9      meeting with Ponceleon was also not published by

      10      "Newsday".

      11             I understand why some people may be upset

      12      with the way that I tried to describe the confusion

      13      changes being made to the school that time.

      14             I hope that additional information provided

      15      today can help to better explain what happened that

      16      day.

      17             I know in my heart that I am not a person

      18      "Newsday" had tried to portray me.

      19             I would never treat anybody like I was

      20      treated when I was forced to leave my country

      21      because of my religion.

      22             Since the "Newsday" report was published,

      23      I worked on my better understanding of English

      24      language, the way that I can express myself.

      25             And I'm truly sorry if I ever offended


       1      anybody.

       2             Thank you for listening.

       3             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you for your

       4      testimony.

       5             I'll now turn it over to Ms. Resnick.

       6             ROSALIND RESNICK:  Well, I'm muted.

       7             Yes, sir.

       8             I already had my --

       9             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Oh, sorry.  You already

      10      gave your opening statement.

      11             I apologize.

      12             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  It's been a long day.

      13             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  That's what happens when

      14      you go on a break, because we're getting back into

      15      it here.

      16             I'm going to turn it over to, actually,

      17      Senator Kevin Thomas for some questions.

      18             SENATOR THOMAS:  Thank you, Senator Skoufis.

      19             Yeah, it is a very long day.

      20             I just want to first say, thank you to both

      21      Ms. Resnick and Ms. Somekh, because you're the only

      22      two that apologized for the actions that "Newsday"

      23      reported on.

      24             Out of so many agents, so many panels, today,

      25      you two are the only ones that said, hey, I have


       1      tried to improve myself, and I also want to

       2      apologize for what was found.

       3             So I want to thank both of you for that.

       4             Listen, we all make mistakes.

       5             That's why we are here, to figure out how to

       6      better all of this.

       7             Can either one of you tell me what new

       8      trainings you received, and the new, you know,

       9      supervision that you've both received after all this

      10      came out?

      11             ROSALIND RESNICK:  Well, can I start?

      12             SENATOR THOMAS:  Yeah.

      13             ROSALIND RESNICK:  I took a couple of more

      14      fair-housing classes to get a better handle.

      15             There is room, I think, for improvement in

      16      the training, because maybe we don't really

      17      understand the things -- the effects of something

      18      that might be said.

      19             I think that needs to be taken into account.

      20             AKHTAR SOMEKH:  And, also, [inaudible] office

      21      always we are in training.  Most every week we have

      22      meetings, and at the meetings, always, we have

      23      subject to talk about.

      24             And also, for classes, I did extra that,

      25      always, I'm updated.


       1             And in month of July, the -- the month --

       2      two months ago, we did another three hours of

       3      fair-housing classes.

       4             SENATOR THOMAS:  And have either one of you

       5      receive -- are either one of you receiving, like,

       6      one-on-one supervision from brokers or from, you

       7      know, associate brokers, about how to go forward

       8      with selling homes from now on?

       9             AKHTAR SOMEKH:  Always -- our manager always

      10      is very involved.  And we have, always, they're

      11      available for us to have a one-by-one, face-to-face

      12      meetings, and discussing any issues that we have.

      13             And, definitely, I have 30 years' experience

      14      in real-estate.  And we never can say that we are

      15      done and we know it all.  We always learn new

      16      things.

      17             SENATOR THOMAS:  Okay.

      18             How about Ms. Resnick?

      19             I think she just --

      20             ROSALIND RESNICK:  Yes, I'm here.

      21             I just -- I need to mention, I think that --

      22      I am now with Douglas Elliman.

      23             SENATOR THOMAS:  Okay.

      24             ROSALIND RESNICK:  And -- but in both places,

      25      an emphasis I feel has been placed on awareness of


       1      the situations and the problems.

       2             SENATOR THOMAS:  All right.

       3             Thank you.

       4             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you, Senator Thomas.

       5             Senator Kavanagh, do you have questions?

       6             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  I do.  Thank you.

       7             So you both have testified that you have

       8      become more aware, and you've done additional

       9      training.

      10             Do you think that that -- from your

      11      experience, is that something that is going on

      12      throughout the industry in the various firms that

      13      you're familiar with, additional training, and --

      14             ROSALIND RESNICK:  I can only speak for the

      15      two agencies, and, yes, there's a lot of training.

      16             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

      17             And -- and -- and, Ms. Resnick, you mentioned

      18      that -- I think, that it has been helpful to you,

      19      but perhaps not adequately indicating the effects of

      20      some of these things?

      21             ROSALIND RESNICK:  Well, I think I was

      22      referring to the previous trainings over the years,

      23      that it was very cut and dried, and I don't think we

      24      went deep enough into the effects of not following

      25      the guideline.


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  I just want to -- I want

       2      to get on the record, and you both have been very

       3      forthcoming here, and I appreciate that.

       4             I just -- because, you know, we've had

       5      different witnesses about different issues today,

       6      and I don't think we discussed religion much.

       7             So I just want to -- I -- just for the record

       8      here:

       9             Ms. Resnick, you had met with a White

      10      homebuyer and a Black prospective homebuyer --

      11             ROSALIND RESNICK:  Yes.

      12             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- and they were similarly

      13      situated financially.

      14             And one of the ways you treated them

      15      differently, is you discussed the religious makeup

      16      of Great Neck with the White homebuyer, but not the

      17      Black homebuyer.

      18             And, again, you've said that -- you've

      19      expressed, you know, reservations now about the way

      20      you handled that.

      21             What was your understanding then about

      22      discussing the religious makeup of a community, and

      23      what is your understanding now?

      24             ROSALIND RESNICK:  I'm not sure I didn't

      25      discuss it with both people.


       1             I have never seen the entire three hours, or

       2      what -- how many hours it is.

       3             I'm pretty consistent in what I try to tell

       4      people.

       5             There was no hidden meaning behind it, if

       6      I did not mention it earlier to the first tester,

       7      I mean.

       8             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

       9             [Off-camera voices.]

      10             Even though you don't have access to the

      11      entire video, I think "Newsday" asserts that you did

      12      not speak about that with the Black homebuyer.

      13             ROSALIND RESNICK:  They also didn't -- okay.

      14      I'm sorry.

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  No, no -- I'm just -- I'm

      16      just saying for the record.

      17             I'm not saying the fact that they -- you're

      18      making an assertion, they're making an assertion.

      19             I'm just noting that for the record.

      20             I'm not saying --

      21             ROSALIND RESNICK:  I understand.

      22             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- you're wrong,

      23      necessarily.

      24             [Indiscernible] the -- based on your

      25      understanding now, is it acceptable to talk about


       1      the racial or religious makeup of an area,

       2      unsolicited, with the homebuyer?

       3             ROSALIND RESNICK:  Absolutely not.

       4             And it's very hard, because people do ask.

       5      And now I tell them I can't answer.

       6             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  So

       7      [indiscernible] -- is that an important thing in --

       8      to be included in the training, how -- we had some

       9      experts testify to this earlier.

      10             But from our perspective, is it important

      11      that brokers be trained in how to answer questions

      12      like that, if somebody says, you know, What's the

      13      race of this community? what -- you know, asks

      14      specific questions about their religion?

      15             ROSALIND RESNICK:  Yes, we need to be trained

      16      better.

      17             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.  [Indiscernible] to

      18      actually -- to specifically to answer those

      19      questions, not just to, you know, try to avoid

      20      bringing up topics you're not supposed to bring up?

      21             ROSALIND RESNICK:  Correct.

      22             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay.

      23             But your understanding now is that, even if

      24      you did it in an even-handed way, if you discussed

      25      with two homebuyers, even if -- even if you say the


       1      same words to both of them, if you're saying,

       2      I would like to note that Great Neck is a community

       3      with -- I'm trying the find the exact words here --

       4      but, you know, it's a community with a lot of, you

       5      know, Orthodox Jewish people it in, that that's not

       6      behavior that is acceptable under the current law

       7      [simultaneous talking] --

       8             ROSALIND RESNICK:  I understand.

       9             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  -- even-handed way.

      10             Okay.

      11             I think I will end there, other than to thank

      12      you both for participating today, and for your

      13      testimony.

      14             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Very good.

      15             Thank you, Senator Kavanagh.

      16             I'll jump in and ask each of you, if I may:

      17             Putting your situations aside vis-a-vis the

      18      "Newsday" investigation, talk to me about what your

      19      general sense, on Long Island, in the industry, how

      20      often does steering happen?

      21             Do you think, you know, by looking at your

      22      colleagues, by just, you know, sort of seeing and

      23      hearing, you know, what's going on around you, is it

      24      commonplace, would you say?  Do you think it's very

      25      rare?


       1             What do you think about, again, putting your

       2      situations aside, when you read the "Newsday"

       3      expos�, what was your take-away for everyone else

       4      that was looked at?

       5             I would love to -- to get your insight on --

       6      on those questions and feelings.

       7             ROSALIND RESNICK:  I don't think I can

       8      comment on all of Long Island.

       9             I feel that, as in any profession, there must

      10      be people doing the right things, and some people

      11      maybe not doing the right thing.

      12             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

      13             AKHTAR SOMEKH:  For me, that we are

      14      individual working.  And, usually, when we work with

      15      people, it's us -- between us and our customers.

      16             So I don't know about other people behavior,

      17      but, in general, I can tell, I was surprised with

      18      "Newsday" report because our office, always, we

      19      discuss these details.

      20             And we always be -- we've been trained to

      21      treat people equally, with respect.

      22             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

      23             Do you -- now that you've been involved with

      24      "Newsday's" efforts, I'm curious what your thoughts

      25      are about testing, and whether you think that it is


       1      valuable.  Whether you think there should be more of

       2      it.

       3             If you can speak to what your thoughts are

       4      about -- about that.

       5             AKHTAR SOMEKH:  My opinion is that education

       6      is the key.

       7             As we get more education and information, we

       8      train better, it helps.

       9             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  So how do you suggest,

      10      though -- so I understand -- training is, I agree, a

      11      very important element of all this.

      12             But once the agent leaves the training, what

      13      tools do you suggest be employed to make sure that

      14      agents aren't violating the law, aren't disregarding

      15      what they just learned in the training?

      16             How do you -- if it's not more testing, how

      17      do suggest that we ensure that discrimination isn't

      18      happening?

      19             AKHTAR SOMEKH:  I can just talk about myself.

      20             I just try to be more understanding of

      21      feeling of the people and respecting people, in any

      22      cases.

      23             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

      24             Thank you.

      25             Rosalind, do you have anything?


       1             ROSALIND RESNICK:  Testing serves a purpose

       2      in many areas, not just this, but I think it has to

       3      be done in a much more measured way.

       4             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  If I can ask, what you mean

       5      by that?

       6             ROSALIND RESNICK:  Well, I believe the rules

       7      for testing are that, they should be on the same

       8      day, or within a couple of days.

       9             My case was nine months apart.

      10             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

      11             That's your primary concern with testing?

      12             ROSALIND RESNICK:  No, I'm not a testing

      13      expert.  I'm sorry.

      14             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

      15             Yeah, I -- I -- neither am I, for the record.

      16             I was just curious what you had thought in

      17      light of everything that's transpired since last

      18      year.

      19             I think I am okay with questions.

      20             Do -- I don't see any other hands among

      21      colleagues.

      22             I'll just throw it back out and ask if

      23      Senator Kavanaugh or Thomas has any follow-up?

      24             You're good?

      25             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  No.  I think I'm good


       1      again.

       2             Thank you again, both of you, for testifying

       3      today.

       4             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Very good.

       5             And thank you for being here.

       6             AKHTAR SOMEKH:  Thank you very much.

       7             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Take care.

       8             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  We will now move on to

       9      Panel Number 8.

      10             This is our second group of fair-housing

      11      professionals/experts, and we're going to hear from:

      12             Elaine Gross, who is at Erase Racism;

      13             And, Fred Freiberg, Fair Housing Justice.

      14             And I believe both of you were at our first

      15      hearing, if I'm not mistaken, late last year, so,

      16      welcome back.

      17             Who would like to begin?

      18             Ms. Gross?

      19             ELAINE GROSS:  Sure.

      20             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

      21             ELAINE GROSS:  Can you hear me?

      22             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Yep.

      23             ELAINE GROSS:  Okay.

      24             So, committee chairs and members of the

      25      committees, I am Elaine Gross, and I'm the


       1      president/CEO of Erase Racism, the regional civil

       2      rights organization based here on Long Island.

       3             And we've talked about Levittown today.

       4             Long Island is renowned as the model of

       5      structural racism.

       6             And the problem that we are examining today,

       7      structural racism as it relates to housing, is,

       8      therefore, not new to us, but it is a problem that

       9      deserves our relentless commitment to eradication.

      10             So one of the things you asked me to talk

      11      about was COVID-19 pandemic.

      12             And it has highlighted the enormous racial

      13      disparities evident in who is most impacted by it,

      14      with African Americans and Latinx people

      15      disproportionately affected.

      16             And I would like to point out, just as an

      17      example, on Long Island, the age-adjusted death rate

      18      per 100,000 people currently stands at 60.9 for

      19      White people and 181.2 for Black people.

      20             So that means, for every White person who

      21      dies COVID-19 -- dies of COVID-19 on Long Island,

      22      three Black people die.

      23             So I will note that there is an overlap

      24      between the COVID-19 hotspots in the majority and

      25      minority neighborhoods, and the same neighborhoods,


       1      for example, Huntington, Hempsted, Brentwood, that

       2      "Newsday" found the realty agent steered Black

       3      people towards and White people away from.

       4             The other thing that you asked was, to speak

       5      on the tragic killings of African-Americans.

       6             And the only thing that I would say, is that

       7      both the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and

       8      Breonna Taylor in Louisville have generated this

       9      nationwide discussion about inhumane actions of

      10      police officers.

      11             I do mention in a June 4th commentary

      12      published in "The Hill," was titled "Underlying

      13      Americans Unrest is Structural Racism," there is a

      14      long history of government-sponsored structural

      15      racism.  And that is, in the case of the police, and

      16      also in housing.

      17             I also want to just point out that people

      18      remember that the national association of

      19      real-estate boards were the original creators of the

      20      racial covenants.

      21             And I want to also point out that the Trump

      22      administration has undermined fair housing by

      23      eliminating AFFH.

      24             So we've talked today, there are some pieces

      25      of legislation that are addressing some of the


       1      current problems.

       2             And I note that the Senate bill, 6874A, that

       3      passed, that's Senator Gaughran's bill, really

       4      leaves no excuse for the department of state now to

       5      discipline the realty agents.

       6             And we applaud that bill.

       7             There are several bills that have not been

       8      passed yet.

       9             And taken together, all of the bills

      10      represent strong progress in the right direction.

      11             We would note that, for Senate Bill 6713,

      12      Senator Hoylman introduced that.  And we were --

      13      were the original organizers of the statewide

      14      coalition pushing for source of income as a

      15      protected class.

      16             So we're very, very happy to see this bill

      17      will provide the appropriate notification so that

      18      people know that they have this protection.

      19             I think it's a game-changer.

      20             For Senate Bill 7625, Senator Kaplan

      21      introduced that, and it talks about the fair-housing

      22      testing being done by the attorney general.

      23             And as has been stated frequently, the people

      24      who are discriminated against will most likely not

      25      know that they are the victims.


       1             And we want the power of the attorney

       2      general's office behind fair-housing enforcement.

       3             So this is a great thing.

       4             And I'm glad that it will be a public report

       5      that they provide, and that the legislature is

       6      asking for this.

       7             For Senate Bill 8096, Senator Kavanagh's

       8      bill, that is certainly critical.

       9             I mention that, on the federal level,

      10      Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing has been

      11      eliminated.

      12             And we in New York State should be proud that

      13      the State is taking broad steps to further fair

      14      housing.

      15             And the Senate bill, 7581, Senator Skoufis's

      16      bill, it is mandating that the required instructions

      17      for realty agents include a focus on systemic

      18      racism.

      19             And, of course, Erase Racism has been doing

      20      that kind of training since our inception in 2001.

      21             It is critical, and I -- I suggest that you

      22      call on us if we can be some of assistance in -- of

      23      some assistance in that regard.

      24             For Senate Bill 7632, introduced by

      25      Senator Thomas, we need to have increased penalties,


       1      which is what this bill is doing.  That will help us

       2      with the enforcement.

       3             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Ms. Gross, if I could just

       4      ask you to wrap up in maybe 15 or 20 seconds.

       5             ELAINE GROSS:  Sure.

       6             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

       7             ELAINE GROSS:  So my final comment, and it's

       8      not the focus of this hearing, but I just want to

       9      have it on the record:

      10             The primary culprit of perpetuating housing

      11      discrimination in New York State is New York State's

      12      adoption of the Home Rule Law.

      13             Long Island has 2 county [sic] and 13 towns,

      14      97 incorporated villages, creating municipal

      15      fragmentation that divides rather than unites.

      16             And there is a recent paper that I wrote,

      17      which you can see on my website for the NYU Furman

      18      Center, "Housing Discrimination and Local Control."

      19             So that's the next thing for you guys to

      20      think about.

      21             So thank you again for the opportunity to

      22      testify today, and I welcome your intervention on

      23      these issues.

      24             Thank you.

      25             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you very much.


       1             I'll turn it over to Mr. Freiberg.

       2             FRED FREIBERG:  Thank you very much.

       3             Good afternoon, Senators.

       4             Thank you very much for inviting me to

       5      provide additional testimony at the second joint

       6      hearing of Senate committees today.

       7             I know you've had a very long day, and

       8      I intend to make my remarks very brief.

       9             As you know, my name is Fred Freiberg.  I'm

      10      the founder and executive director of the

      11      Fair Housing Justice Center, a regional civil

      12      rights organization based in New York City.

      13             First, I was asked to comment on some

      14      proposed legislation that is pending before the

      15      state legislature, and whether this legislation will

      16      help to address the problem of systemic

      17      discrimination and residential segregation.

      18             And I provided written comments to the

      19      committees, and I put in those comments my specific

      20      suggestions.

      21             Generally, I think they all are worthy of

      22      support, and I've made a few suggestions on a couple

      23      of the bills that I think will make them stronger

      24      and even better pieces of legislation.

      25             So, I won't go over it in my oral testimony.


       1      I'll just leave it with you in terms of my written

       2      testimony.  But I do think they're worthy of

       3      support.

       4             I was also invited to offer comments on the

       5      implications of the current COVID-19 pandemic, and

       6      the numerous protests against racial injustice that

       7      we've witnessed across the country in recent months.

       8             As New Yorkers faced increased -- increased

       9      housing instability due to the COVID-19 pandemic,

      10      and at a time when our nation is engaged in a

      11      conversation about the issue of racial justice and

      12      equity, it is really the right time to enact some

      13      legislation that can help reduce illegal housing

      14      discrimination and residential racial segregation.

      15             I think the legislative package that I just

      16      mentioned is worthy of broad support, but it's

      17      clearly not all that needs to be done from a policy

      18      perspective.

      19             I mentioned some of the other issues in my

      20      December testimony.

      21             And Elaine Gross has also referenced some

      22      additional issues that I think are worthy of

      23      consideration as well.

      24             Finally, I was asked to respond to the

      25      testimony provided earlier by real-estate


       1      professionals who were subpoenaed to testify at

       2      today's hearing.

       3             As I explained to the Senate staff, I stand

       4      by my comments on the "Newsday" investigation, and

       5      that is still the case.

       6             Obviously, I was not able to go back and

       7      check the facts in each of the tests to compare it

       8      against what each agent said today.

       9             I will say, briefly, that I found the

      10      responses from the brokers of the firms rather

      11      uninspired when you asked the question about, what

      12      else could they do, to make sure that agents are

      13      complying with fair-housing laws?

      14             I would have expected a few more creative

      15      responses to that question than what you actually

      16      received.

      17             But since there are multiple government

      18      investigations underway right now, in examining the

      19      conduct of these real-estate agents and brokers, my

      20      preference is not to provide further comments, as

      21      I assume the factual evidence will guide these

      22      investigations, and not my opinion.

      23             So I am going to refrain from talking more

      24      about that.

      25             I didn't hear anything today that would


       1      substantially change my opinion about the tests that

       2      "Newsday" conducted.  I will say that much.

       3             I do want to reiterate, what "Newsday"

       4      exposed is not peculiar to Long Island, or to the

       5      real-estate sales market, for that matter.

       6             Systemic racism infects segments of the

       7      housing market and is still much too pervasive.

       8             A few months ago, following the murder of

       9      George Floyd, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote an op-ed in

      10      "The LA Times" and included the following quote that

      11      I would like to end with as a parting thought for

      12      all of us to ponder because it applies to housing as

      13      well.

      14             He said, quote:

      15             "Racism in America is like dust in the air.

      16             "It seems invisible, even if you're choking

      17      on it, until you let the sun in.  Then you see it's

      18      everywhere.

      19             "As long as we keep shining that light, we

      20      have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands, but

      21      we have to stay vigilant because it's always still

      22      in the air."

      23             Previously, I thanked "Newsday" for shining a

      24      bright light on the issue of housing discrimination,

      25      but I also want to extend my appreciation to your


       1      Senate committees for keeping the light on, and for

       2      formulating legislative and policy responses to

       3      address this problem.

       4             Again, I'm here today, I'm happy to answer

       5      questions from committee members, and I again

       6      appreciate the opportunity to speak with you.

       7             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you, both, both for

       8      your testimony and your work on this issue.

       9             I'll start.

      10             And, you know, one of the recurring themes

      11      that we've heard from all of the brokers and agents

      12      are cries of fake news, basically -- right? -- where

      13      "Newsday's" investigation was flawed, was unfair,

      14      was, you know, incomplete, like, whatever adjective

      15      you want to throw in there, I think we heard them

      16      all today, and they all fall under this sort of --

      17      this category that has existed four years now of

      18      "fake news."

      19             Your reaction to that?

      20             You both, no doubt, have taken a very close

      21      and hard look at the -- what "Newsday" produced.

      22             Can you speak to, in your professional

      23      opinions, the voracity of the "Newsday"

      24      investigation?

      25             ELAINE GROSS:  Well, I -- I would sort of


       1      echo Fred, in that, what I said in the fall, I --

       2      I felt that the "Newsday" investigation was

       3      absolutely stellar.  And they took great pains to be

       4      conservative in terms of trying to be sure they had

       5      the same statements being made, that the -- that

       6      the -- that the two testers were asking for the same

       7      thing, et cetera, et cetera.

       8             So I don't find it credible at all, the

       9      comments that suggest that "Newsday" is the problem,

      10      and -- and that the realtors are all innocent.

      11             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Do you -- and,

      12      specifically, something that we heard frequently

      13      was, well, that clip, that video clip, those

      14      comments, were taken out of context.

      15             Do you think that there is anything to that

      16      response that we heard frequently from agents and

      17      brokers?

      18             FRED FREIBERG:  My recollection -- my

      19      recollection is, that the -- when "Newsday" broke

      20      the story back in November of 2019, they posted all

      21      of the videos on which they relied for their story,

      22      in their entirety.

      23             And I didn't listen to all of them, I will

      24      tell you that, honestly, because it's a lot of hours

      25      of recorded testing.  But it was posted for all to


       1      see.

       2             I thought their transparency was remarkable,

       3      in that they weren't hiding anything.

       4             A lot of times, in testing cases, I will tell

       5      you, defendants initially argue, well, it's what

       6      you're not showing us, or what you're not telling

       7      us, or what you can't hear on a particular

       8      recording, that they allege vindicates them in a

       9      situation.

      10             But "Newsday" was much more transparent here.

      11             And I think one of the reasons the study --

      12      the investigation didn't receive a lot of criticism

      13      from the real-estate industry was the fact that they

      14      were pretty forthcoming about what they found, and

      15      laid it on the table for everybody to see.

      16             ELAINE GROSS:  And I would add that the

      17      statements speak for themselves.

      18             I mean, and -- and -- you know, all of you,

      19      all the Senators, really pointed that out as well.

      20             So I don't understand that comment about,

      21      it's something that wasn't said.

      22             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  And -- and to -- to that

      23      end, and to the end of, you know, what we're all

      24      talking about here, are you -- are you as stunned as

      25      I am, that it seems, as far as we can tell from the


       1      brokers and CEOs and the written testimony, that it

       2      appears not a single real-estate agent faced

       3      disciplinary action at the end of all this?

       4             Your reaction to that.

       5             ELAINE GROSS:  Well, I don't know that

       6      I can't say that I was stunned.

       7             I had hoped, I really had hoped, that there

       8      would have been action, because it was so clear, as

       9      Fred said, they were -- "Newsday" was so

      10      transparent, there's no way you -- and even, you

      11      know, sometimes you said a comment, you said, Is

      12      there any way that comment would not be considered

      13      discriminatory?

      14             And so I -- that there has been no action

      15      is -- is appalling.

      16             And I hope that the State will not appall us,

      17      and what I mean is, I hope that there will be action

      18      on the part of the New York State Division of

      19      Licensing Services, the Division of Human Rights.

      20             You know, that will stun me if there's no

      21      action by the -- by the enforcement agencies, if you

      22      will.

      23             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Do you have anything to

      24      add, Fred?

      25             FRED FREIBERG:  The only thing I would add


       1      is, I think the -- the lack of action by the

       2      companies is not terribly surprising, only because

       3      many of them, as you saw, were lawyered up for even

       4      this hearing.

       5             They're facing investigations right now by

       6      various government agencies.  So they're taking the

       7      position, I will say, at least somewhat

       8      understandably, that there's an explanation for what

       9      they did, and so forth, because if the companies

      10      actually discipline them, then it would become

      11      obvious to the government agencies investigating

      12      them that they did something wrong.

      13             I think it's going to be obvious anyway, or

      14      should be obvious, to some of the investigations

      15      that are ongoing, that there were some acts here

      16      that were inappropriate under fair-housing laws.

      17             But I don't -- I'm not surprised by it.

      18             It is stunning, though, I agree with you.

      19             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you, both.

      20             Senator Kavanagh, do you have anything?

      21             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Uh, yes, I do.  Thank you.

      22             Fred, your -- I -- first of all, thank you

      23      both for testifying once again.  It's very helpful

      24      to us.

      25             You're actually the only two witnesses that


       1      we've had back twice now.

       2             So we appreciate your time and your

       3      commitment to this, and your expertise.

       4             Fred, you -- your organization works -- you

       5      work, if I'm not mistaken, in New York City, and

       6      Dutchess and Nassau and Orange and Putnam and

       7      Rockland and Suffolk and Westchester.  Is that

       8      right?

       9             FRED FREIBERG:  That's pretty good.

      10             Yes.

      11             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Okay, I try.

      12             You -- they're helpfully alphabetized.

      13             So the -- so I just want to get a sense,

      14      like, obviously, we focused on Long Island because

      15      of these dramatic -- very dramatic findings and

      16      very -- very specific findings.

      17             Do you believe that the phenomena that we're

      18      seeing on Long Island, through this investigation,

      19      are widespread in other parts of the state,

      20      including other places where you're working?

      21             FRED FREIBERG:  I do.

      22             And I think it's not only widespread in --

      23      throughout the state, but I think, you could go to

      24      any number of metropolitan areas in the nation and

      25      produce similar results.  Some might be slightly


       1      worse, some might be slightly better, but you're

       2      going to see this.

       3             I mean, it's a -- it's a culture within the

       4      real-estate industry that has not changed.

       5             And I might add, because I know a lot of your

       6      questions today -- or, questions of the senators,

       7      had to do with training, and how do you make the

       8      changes, and the fact you got these rather

       9      uninspired responses from some of the brokers, there

      10      are some real-estate people out there in the country

      11      who are really thinking deeply about the issue of

      12      race, and how it impacts their work and the

      13      industry, and they're trying to make changes in

      14      their own communities.

      15             And we're actually working with the

      16      National Association of Realtors to produce a video.

      17      We're interviewing those individuals, to show that

      18      they actually live their fair-housing values, and so

      19      forth, in the work that they do.

      20             I think we have to get more of those voices

      21      out front, where people are talking about, yes, you

      22      know, you can be asked about race, or this, and this

      23      is how you should handle it.

      24             But maybe it's more than that.

      25             Having people be accountable in the office


       1      for what they're doing, or not doing, in their

       2      real-estate practices, and holding them responsible

       3      for their actions.

       4             And I do think that that was noticeably

       5      absent today.  And I think it's where the direction

       6      the industry has to go.

       7             And I think there's some movement in that

       8      direction, but I think we still have a long way to

       9      go.

      10             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Do you think the "Newsday"

      11      investigation and its -- their reporting, it seems,

      12      if nothing else, certainly these firms are looking

      13      at their practices.  They're, as you noted, getting

      14      lawyers in many cases.  We had testimony that

      15      they -- you know, they fired the previous testers --

      16      the trainers.  They have new trainers now.

      17             Whether that's -- putting aside the question

      18      of whether that is sufficient on Long Island, do you

      19      think that other actors in the industry are -- in

      20      New York State, say, are -- are responding to this,

      21      or are changing practices, at this point?

      22             FRED FREIBERG:  Well, I know we've trained

      23      the trainers for the New York State Association of

      24      Realtors.  And we've got inquiries from other

      25      boards.


       1             And I think there is interest in providing

       2      more quality training and instruction on fair

       3      housing, perhaps some on implicit bias, and some on

       4      the history.

       5             You know, a lot of people discussed,

       6      including your other experts, the need to talk about

       7      the effects of this discrimination, and how it

       8      actually harms people and communities.

       9             And I think that's a very essential element

      10      of this training that needs to happen.

      11             I'm not as much sold, I will tell you, quite

      12      frankly, on the notion that all -- much of the

      13      discrimination that "Newsday" exposed is based on

      14      implicit bias.

      15             I think it's convenient to suggest that.

      16             I actually see a lot more intentional bias in

      17      some of the comments and statements that were made.

      18             But I'm not saying implicit bias doesn't

      19      exist, or that it shouldn't be addressed in

      20      training.  I'm merely saying, I think that the

      21      real-estate industry plays that card a little too

      22      often as a way to suggest, somehow, that they're

      23      going to minimize the -- the prevalence of

      24      intentional racism in their rank and file.

      25             And I thing that's a mistake.


       1             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  I agree that we certainly

       2      had some behavior that seemed quite overt, that we

       3      tried to highlight today, that did not seem implicit

       4      or -- or it certainly wasn't well-coded if it was

       5      intended to be coded.

       6             Elaine, can I ask you, just to follow up a

       7      little bit on something you said before?

       8             You talked about the positive effect of the

       9      legislation that we're considering today, and, you

      10      know, our committees are considering.

      11             You talked about the positive effect that

      12      would have, but you also mentioned that you think,

      13      sort of, the next frontier on this is the question

      14      of local control of home rule.

      15             And -- can you talk a little bit more about

      16      the relationship between decisions that localities

      17      make and -- and racial segregation?

      18             ELAINE GROSS:  Sure.

      19             So on Long Island, where we also have a

      20      multitude of localities, what happens is, very --

      21      there's very little development that can happen as

      22      of right when you're talking about multi-family

      23      housing.

      24             And that's -- that's a big way to keep out

      25      affordable housing, because the most affordable


       1      housing is going to be multi-family; it's going to

       2      be less expensive, it's going to be apartments.

       3             And -- and we have seen at hearings, where

       4      the residents make very clear, they're screaming and

       5      name-calling, and all kinds of things going on, that

       6      they don't want any of "those people," or things of

       7      that nature, coming into the community.

       8             And the electeds, you know, I would say that

       9      there's a -- there's some spine missing, or, they

      10      are of the same mind of the residents.

      11             And so what happens is, the developers are

      12      not able to make progress because the zoning is for

      13      single-family, and it's also for large lots.

      14             And so you -- you don't have -- you -- it's

      15      hard to just get the multi-family, and then it's

      16      really hard to get enough density so that you can

      17      get enough affordability.

      18             So given that structural racism is so

      19      endemic, which means that people have been living in

      20      the soup of structural racism since its inception,

      21      and since Long Island's inception, with Levittown,

      22      et cetera, and those notions, those ideas, are not

      23      disappearing.

      24             And we saw it in the hearing today.

      25             I would say, I would agree with Fred, that


       1      the reason why people do what they do is because

       2      they have those prejudices, and they haven't been

       3      checked.

       4             There's been -- there really hasn't been the

       5      kind of enforcement that would say to them, you

       6      can't -- I know that's the way you feel, but you

       7      can't get away with that.

       8             And they do get away with it, they have been

       9      getting away with it, so that's why it is so

      10      rampant.

      11             The most generous thing I can say about the

      12      people in charge of the real-estate agencies, is

      13      they need to be in a different profession.

      14             I mean, they don't know -- if they don't know

      15      what "housing discrimination" is, which is clearly

      16      kind of what they were dancing around, I didn't

      17      know, and, then I had to have more training, or

      18      whatever, these are supposed to be the experts in

      19      real estate.

      20             And they showed, flatly, that the best you

      21      could say, is that they don't know their job.

      22             And this is a part of their job.  This is not

      23      some kind of add-on.

      24             It's integral to them being able to do their

      25      job in the way they should.


       1             And then the worst thing you could say, you

       2      know, is a lot of other things, about how they are

       3      lying.

       4             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you.

       5             Yeah, and thank you for -- you know, for your

       6      review, your comments earlier, on the legislation

       7      we're proposing today, but also thinking longer term

       8      and bigger picture about what we can do.

       9             We did -- we did, the Housing Committee,

      10      along with Velmanette Montgomery, our great Senate

      11      colleague who is sadly departing from the Senate in

      12      the next few months, we did do a joint roundtable on

      13      Long Island last year about the difficulty of

      14      producing affordable housing.

      15             I think some of my colleagues from

      16      Long Island were there as well.

      17             And, you know, especially the difficulty of

      18      producing multi-family housing.

      19             I will say, also, that this is a topic where

      20      we have heard directly from some of the builders on

      21      Long Island, that they would like to produce that

      22      kind of housing, which, as you note, might be more

      23      accessible to people, and they meet great obstacles.

      24             So -- and I think that's a conversation to be

      25      continued.


       1             You mentioned your report on the

       2      Furman Center site.

       3             I think the Furman Center also has been doing

       4      some work on this.

       5             And I do think this is a topic that we will

       6      be talking about more as we go into the next

       7      session.

       8             But, again, thank you, both, for your -- all

       9      of your work, for your -- for your leadership in --

      10      in this world that we're in, and for your expertise

      11      today, and always.

      12             Thank you.

      13             ELAINE GROSS:  You're welcome.

      14             FRED FREIBERG:  Thank you.

      15             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Before I turn it over to

      16      Senator Krueger, who I know has some questions, I do

      17      just want to acknowledge something that you said,

      18      Fred, and it was a good point, and that is, that

      19      there does seem to be other stakeholders here,

      20      industry stakeholders, that are taking this more

      21      seriously than some of what we've heard today at the

      22      hearing, including the New York State Association of

      23      Realtors, who have indicated they would welcome more

      24      testing, who, as you pointed out, are taking their

      25      trainings more seriously, who have been engaged, and


       1      even supportive, in many of the pieces of the

       2      legislation that we are proposing.

       3             And so, for anyone who is watching, I think

       4      that is an important point to reinforce, and that

       5      is, that there are some industry stakeholders who

       6      have been very engaged on this issue, and taking it

       7      a lot more seriously than what we've heard.

       8             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  I think it's worth

       9      noting --

      10                [Simultaneous talking by multiple

      11        parties.]

      12             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  I think it's worth noting

      13      that the Association of Realtors also testified at

      14      our previous hearing.  They're not here today.

      15             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  That's right.

      16             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  They have been on the

      17      record on this issue as well.

      18             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Senator Krueger.

      19             SENATOR KRUGER:  Thank you so much.

      20             Again, I'm finding this hearing so

      21      educational and valuable, and I'm sorry I missed the

      22      first one.

      23             So when you were both -- actually, several of

      24      my questions, my esteemed colleague Brian Kavanagh

      25      just asked, so I really only have two left now.  So


       1      I already know.

       2             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Sorry.

       3             SENATOR KRUGER:  That's okay, Brian.  You

       4      didn't know.  Great minds think alike.

       5             You are the chair of this committee, damn it.

       6             So I'm not clear whether this did come up

       7      earlier, but, are real-estate agents asking people

       8      for their credit scores, or other questions like

       9      that, during their initial interview of where

      10      they're going to direct them?

      11             Because, at least for people who live in the

      12      city of New York, who might be trying for rental

      13      apartments, not purchasing homes, that is one

      14      mechanism that is used to steer people away from

      15      certain kinds of housing.

      16             So, the fact is, if you are low income, or

      17      you were low income at some point, if you were a

      18      single mom at some point, if you were Black or Brown

      19      at some point, which pretty much follows you around

      20      your whole life, you may have had credit-score

      21      problems.

      22             And is that used to sort of also discriminate

      23      against people before they even start to look for a

      24      house?  Is that part of the story?

      25             FRED FREIBERG:  Well, I think I can possibly


       1      answer that.

       2             And part what you have to recognize with the

       3      real-estate industry, is there's not just one way

       4      companies and agents work.  They're all structured

       5      differently.

       6             I would say that, where you have credit

       7      entering into the equation, is to the extent you

       8      have agents, and you heard some today, who said, you

       9      have to be preapproved for a loan before I'm going

      10      to take you out to see homes.

      11             Well, the credit score is going to enter into

      12      that equation.

      13             You know, there's such a thing as

      14      prequalification that a lender can do, to give you a

      15      rough idea of how much housing you can afford.

      16             You don't have to have a credit check done to

      17      get a prequalification.

      18             A preapproval, though, suggests you're,

      19      pretty much, ready, willing, and able to purchase

      20      that day, and they are going to do a credit check --

      21      most lenders are going to do a credit check in order

      22      to qualify you.

      23             So if a real-estate agent is saying, I won't

      24      take anyone out who is not preapproved, it means,

      25      for instance, for a first-time homebuyer, you have


       1      to be ready to lock in a rate on a loan before you

       2      even looked at a home, which seems a little

       3      ridiculous to me.

       4             Most people want to search for a house for a

       5      while, and get an idea of the market and what they

       6      can afford, before they want to lock in a rate and

       7      have their credit checks done on their background as

       8      well.

       9             So it comes into play, but I think in a more

      10      subtle fashion, and in some of the ways that the

      11      "Newsday" investigation actually uncovered.

      12             SENATOR KRUGER:  Because [indiscernible] my

      13      experience, that for first-time homeowners, and also

      14      for new Americans, it's more likely that they then

      15      might be going to their extended family and saying,

      16      Hi, can you help me out with the down payment,

      17      because I can't quite do it myself?

      18             And that's a perfectly acceptable and

      19      reasonable way to ensure that you might be able to

      20      afford that home.

      21             But if they're going to predetermine you

      22      before you ever get to even see houses in certain

      23      communities, it seems to me that that really is a

      24      problem, and is parallel to what we see in steering

      25      around in what you're allowed rent or not rent in


       1      the city of New York.

       2             Because we all know on this hearing, that

       3      discrimination takes place, pretty much, everywhere.

       4      God knows it's not unique to Long Island.  We just

       5      had a "Newsday" expos� there.

       6             So is there something we should be trying to

       7      do to prevent that from happening?

       8             FRED FREIBERG:  It's funny you should bring

       9      up renting in the city of New York, because,

      10      actually, one of the disturbing trends with some

      11      landlords is that you've got to submit a full

      12      application and have a credit check done before you

      13      are even able to see or know what's available by

      14      that landlord -- which is ridiculous.

      15             I mean, I've been a renter all my life.  And

      16      I could not imagine disclosing all of my personal

      17      identity information before I even see the unit that

      18      I'm going to be applying for.

      19             And, yet, that is increasingly becoming a

      20      problem.

      21             So there may be some policy, or legislative,

      22      solutions to that problem, because I think that's

      23      pretty onerous for renters, to have to submit all of

      24      their documentation in the private market before

      25      even knowing what apartments are available, or


       1      knowing whether they can see the apartments.

       2             So that might be necessary.

       3             In the sales market, I think it's, uhm --

       4      it's a question of this preapproval thing, and

       5      whether there's some way to regulate that.

       6             You know, I notice a lot of the agents in the

       7      "Newsday" thing did not -- you know, there's state

       8      rules that the division of licensing has on

       9      disclosing to a perspective buyer, whether you're a

      10      buyer's agent, a seller's agent, or -- or both.

      11             And my understanding is, that didn't happen

      12      very much either.  And that's an actual regulation.

      13             So, I mean, there's a lot of rules that get

      14      passed, but don't get followed by real-estate

      15      agents.

      16             And, of course, fair-housing laws are one,

      17      but there's other -- others as well that are more

      18      consumer-related.

      19             So I think there may be some issues.

      20             I haven't thought deeply about that issue in

      21      the sales market, but I know in the rental market

      22      it's a real serious problem.

      23             ELAINE GROSS:  May I add one clarification?

      24             SENATOR KRUGER:  Please.

      25             ELAINE GROSS:  Because there was some


       1      confusion, the nicest way to put it, concerning

       2      disparate treatment.

       3             And so just to state for the record, the

       4      problem that was identified with a number of these

       5      real-estate agents, was that they would say to

       6      one -- on of the clients, the client of color, you

       7      have to have your -- you know, your certification.

       8             And then to the White client, they wouldn't

       9      say that.

      10             And that seems very straightforward to me.

      11             But I did hear a lot of, sort of, confusion,

      12      they'd bring up a whole nother issue, rather than,

      13      on its face, that's discrimination.

      14             SENATOR KRUGER:  Thank you.

      15             ELAINE GROSS:  Uh-huh.

      16             SENATOR KRUGER:  I guess there was one other

      17      question, I'll try to be careful about how I put it.

      18             So there was at least one real-estate agent

      19      who testified earlier, who said, because I am Latino

      20      and Black, I couldn't possibly discriminate against

      21      someone in the job I do.

      22             And I had an immediate reflection back to my

      23      own life and childhood, where, I happen to be

      24      Jewish.  And my parents went to buy a house, and the

      25      Jewish real-estate agent wouldn't show them houses


       1      in certain communities because they said Jews aren't

       2      welcome there.

       3             But my mother decided she didn't care,

       4      because a town had the best school system in

       5      New Jersey, and she decided her kids could cope with

       6      anti-Semitism in exchange for a good educational

       7      system.

       8             So they bought a house on a bank auction,

       9      because no one would show them a house in the town.

      10             And then when we moved there, all of our

      11      neighbors came with a petition, "Get out Jews."

      12             But it was actually Jewish real-estate agents

      13      who were telling us, don't even try to live in that

      14      town.

      15             So I'm just wondering, are we past all that?

      16             Yes, you can fall into these patterns no

      17      matter who you are, if that's the message coming

      18      through from your industry.

      19             Would you agree?

      20             ELAINE GROSS:  Absolutely.

      21             FRED FREIBERG:  I would absolutely agree.

      22             SENATOR KRUGER:  Thank you?

      23             Thank you, everyone.

      24             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you.

      25             I think Senator Thomas has some questions.


       1             SENATOR THOMAS:  I'll be quick with this.

       2             Thank you, Fred; thank you, Elaine, for all

       3      the testimony that you have given so far.

       4             You two are experts in this.

       5             You probably heard the testimony of some of

       6      these brokers when I questioned them about their

       7      lack of supervision.

       8             I had one that I had asked, whether it's even

       9      possible to supervise 800-plus agents under his

      10      license, and he said "yes."  And he said "it's

      11      easy."

      12             What are your thoughts on this, either one?

      13             FRED FREIBERG:  Well, I have 13 staff, and

      14      I find that very difficult to supervise.

      15             So --

      16                [Laughter.]

      17             FRED FREIBERG:  My staff will appreciate my

      18      saying that.

      19             But I -- but I think 800 is -- runs into the

      20      category of the absurd.

      21             The notion that you can provide the kind

      22      of -- the level of supervision that's required to

      23      ensure that people are complying with the rules and

      24      laws, and so forth, would seem to me to be a

      25      monumental challenge for any supervisor.


       1             And they can develop a structure, as I saw

       2      with the one with the tiered managers, and so forth.

       3             But that may not be the best structure,

       4      actually, to ensure that people are complying with

       5      laws.

       6             Sorry, Elaine, I interrupted you.

       7             ELAINE GROSS:  Nope, that's fine.

       8             And I certainly agree with you on the 800

       9      being absurd.

      10             But I also would add that, again, it makes

      11      you wonder what the policy is for the firm, because

      12      you know, if you're not really doing any

      13      supervision, and, you know, if people are

      14      discriminating the way they -- they way they are,

      15      the way they were shown on the "Newsday"

      16      investigation, you would have no problem with that

      17      if that's the policy of the firm.

      18             So I think that there are underlying issues

      19      here which are certainly disturbing, but it just

      20      affirms what appears to be a widespread problem.

      21             You know, this is not a few agents in a firm.

      22      These are firms that have allowed this behavior to

      23      flourish.

      24             SENATOR THOMAS:  Absolutely.

      25             I mean, you talked about the lack of


       1      enforcement from state agencies, that has led to

       2      what we see right now.

       3             But I -- I kind of feel, like, from all the

       4      testimony these brokers gave, just their -- for

       5      them, profit is everything, so they close their eyes

       6      to certain issues, and that's why we are here, to

       7      try to make things better, because our constituents

       8      deserve a lot better of this.

       9             So thank you so much, both of you.

      10             FRED FREIBERG:  Thank you.

      11             ELAINE GROSS:  You're welcome.

      12             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Thank you, Senator Thomas.

      13             Not seeing any other hands from colleagues,

      14      I believe that concludes this panel.

      15             I want to thank both of you again for coming

      16      back for a second time.

      17             I found it particularly helpful that, quite

      18      frankly, you were at the tail end, and could respond

      19      to some of what we had heard earlier in this

      20      hearing.

      21             So I appreciate you waiting to testify now,

      22      and thank you very much for your insight.

      23             And we look forward to continuing to be in

      24      touch.

      25             ELAINE GROSS:  Thank you.


       1             FRED FREIBERG:  Thank you.

       2             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thank you both.

       3             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Now, at first blush, it may

       4      appear that we are at the end of our hearing and

       5      witness list; however, we are not quite done yet.

       6             As I had mentioned earlier in the hearing,

       7      our counsel was in State Supreme Court before a

       8      judge earlier this afternoon, seeking to compel the

       9      testimony today of Panel 5, which are four

      10      individuals from Realty Connect USA.

      11             They -- they chose to ignore our subpoena.

      12             Despite our reaching out, and continuing to

      13      reach out, to their attorneys, they refused to

      14      comply.

      15             So we are awaiting court action.

      16             We believe that that court action is

      17      forthcoming in the very near term, today.

      18             And so, instead of adjourning and closing

      19      this hearing, we're actually going to go on a

      20      temporary recess, so that we may see what action the

      21      Court does come down with.

      22             And so with that, it's 3:52.  We will go on

      23      temporary recess until we have further word.

      24             Thanks very much.



       1                (A temporary recess is declared by the

       2        co-chairs for this date's joint virtual public

       3        hearing, but the hearing was not adjourned.)

       4                (An announcement by the three co-chairs is

       5        as follows:)

       6             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Okay.

       7             Good evening, everybody.

       8             I'm joined back by my Co-Chairs

       9      Senator Thomas and Senator Kavanagh.

      10             I see there are a couple of colleagues still

      11      here as well.

      12             And we will be tentatively adjourning until

      13      next Friday, that is September 25th, at 10 a.m.

      14             After going to court to enforce our subpoena

      15      that was issued to a number of individuals

      16      associated with Realty Connect USA, our counsel has

      17      reached agreement -- or, tentative agreement,

      18      I should say, with the individuals' lawyer, to have

      19      them appear before us, tentatively, next

      20      Wednesday -- next Friday at 10 a.m.

      21             And so a new public notice will go out, and,

      22      until then, we bid you all farewell.

      23             I don't know if my co-chairs have any parting

      24      words?

      25             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  No, it's been a long day.


       1             Just, I appreciate everybody out there who

       2      has been monitoring and watching today's

       3      proceedings, and all the witnesses, and my

       4      co-chairs, and our other colleagues who joined.

       5             But I'll save closing remarks for the -- kind

       6      of the closing of our final -- or, possibly our

       7      final event on this next Friday.

       8             But, thank you.

       9             And thank you to my co-chairs in particular

      10      for, you know, all your work today.

      11             SENATOR THOMAS:  I just want to echo the same

      12      thing.

      13             I will do my closing, actually, after Round 3

      14      on Friday next week.

      15             But I just want to thank our co-chairs.

      16             I want to thank central staff, and our

      17      hard-working counsel who went to court this morning,

      18      to get this done.

      19             So, thank you to all, and take it away,

      20      Senator Skoufis.

      21             SENATOR SKOUFIS:  Yeah, no, thanks.

      22             And I just want to echo, again, gratitude to

      23      central staff and the staff in each of our offices

      24      for doing a tremendous amount of the legwork leading

      25      up to today.


       1             I guess this is 2.A.

       2             Hearing 2.B. is next Friday.

       3             We will all see you then.

       4             And I think, you know, look, what's

       5      transpired with this particular panel is a testament

       6      to the fact that we in the state Senate Majority are

       7      taking this issue extremely seriously.

       8             We believe that when we issue a subpoena,

       9      that is not something that folks can just sort of

      10      thumb their nose at.

      11             And, you know, we look forward to the

      12      testimony that we will, it seems, be receiving late

      13      next week.

      14             Thanks very much, and see you then.

      15             SENATOR KAVANAGH:  Thanks, everybody.


      17                (Whereupon, the announcement of the

      18        hearing continuation by the co-chairs concludes.)

      19                            --oOo--