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Yaphank Homeowners Sue German-American Settlement League Over Alleged Housing Discrimination

YAPHANK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A Suffolk County couple says they can't sell their home because only people of German decent are allowed to buy it.

It is an unassuming community on the quiet street in Yaphank.

The German-American Settlement League played host to Nazi rallies in the 1930s, but now owns the land that now encompasses about 50 quaint cottages.

The only potential problem? People who own the homes must be of "German extraction," according to the league's bylaws, in order to "cultivate, and propagate in every direction true Germanic culture ... language, customs, and ideals," CBS2's Jessica Schneider reported.

"In all of the four decades I've been challenging discrimination on Long Island, I haven't seen this kind of situation," said Michelle Santantonio.

Santantonio is working with the Kneers, a couple who didn't want to speak publicly but who said they haven't been able to sell their house because of the league's discrimination.

"They're being very courageous coming forward, and that's what it takes to challenge discrimination," Santantonio said.

Philip Kneer and his wife have been trying to sell their house since 2006, but they said it's next to impossible since the league's covenants restrict them from putting up a "For Sale" sign or even advertising.

"You had to advertise within the community, and that's it," said August Stahl. "If someone wants to come in from outside the community, it has to be sponsored by someone who knew them."

Stahl has lived in the community since 2008. He is of German descent, and was sponsored by his brother-in-law.

He insisted it's not an all-white neighborhood that excludes other people.

"It isn't true because anybody can come in here, whoever wants to come in here," said Stahl.

Schneider spoke with a Puerto Rican woman living next door, but she said she doesn't own the home, her mother-in-law does.

The league is now facing a lawsuit from the Kneers. The suit seeks a change to the league's discriminatory policies as well as an unspecified amount of money.

The league's president had no comment, only saying he's working to retain a lawyer.

But Stahl said, with the pending lawsuit, the community is considering changing some of their restrictive rules.

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