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State Senators Miffed At Realtor No-Shows For Hearing On Long Island Housing Discrimination

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A state Senate hearing was launched Thursday on housing discrimination, following an investigation that uncovered widespread unequal treatment of minorities by real estate agents on Long Island.

As CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported, many realtors thumbed their noses and were no shows at the hearing.

Emotions poured out during testimony of what's being called a national embarrassment. The alleged discrimination was uncovered during a three-year Newsday probe.

"Today's hearing reminds me of being back in the 1960s when we were fighting for equal access to housing," said Barbara McFadden of the Long Island chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.

MORELong Island Lawmakers Unveil Plan To Fight Rampant Housing Discrimination After Explosive Investigation

The findings include evidence that potential home buyers were steered to neighborhoods based on race and that agents required preapproved mortgages from black customers but not white ones.

"Real human beings whose lives are turned on end because of housing discrimination," said Elaine Gross, the president of the group ERASE Racism.

Realtor executives seemed to squirm in their seats and when answering questions, some stated as a replay it was "inappropriate for a real estate agent to comment."

Some dodged CBS2's cameras and instead issued statements. The Long Island Board of Realtors plans to suspend its fair housing training program and seek out independent groups to offer new anti-bias instruction.

Senate hearing leaders were miffed that more than 60 invited realtors were no-shows.

"And so we will be sending out legislative subpoenas to many of the 67 individuals to compel testimony," said hearing co-chair Sen. James Skoufis, D-Orange County.

But Anthony Atkinson, a broker from Baldwin, did speak to McLogan, saying, "The report presented is very painful, but not a full reflection of all realtors on Long Island."

"We have a citizen's responsibility to maintain the laws of this land," resident Deanna Lorminier added.

Senate leaders said the next step is to toughen ramifications, like suspending and revoking licenses for redlining, and losing livelihoods with hefty fines for housing discrimination. They added the subpoenas will compel the real estate agents to testify in the coming weeks.

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