Gateway Perspectives: Perseverance Pays Off
Approximately 30 years ago, when I was the Director of Member Services and Professional Standards Administrator for the then Westchester County Board of Realtors, I vividly remember walking over to the Westchester County Legislative offices where the Board of Legislators was conducting a public hearing on co-op transparency legislation, which would require co-op boards to provide a reason when they rejected a prospective applicant. The meeting room was packed to the rafters, primarily with individuals who opposed the proposed legislation. I had signed up to speak in favor of the bill, but for every proponent of the legislation there were three to four opponents who spoke. The legislation went down in flames.
However, we didn’t give up and continued to plug away at co-op transparency legislation year-after-year and it remained on the top of our list of legislative priorities. From our perspective, co-op transparency was, first and foremost, a Fair Housing issue. After our merger with the Rockland Board of Realtors and the Orange County Association of Realtors to create the Hudson Gateway Association, we succeeded in getting a modified version of co-op transparency legislation passed in Rockland County. Then, in 2018, we finally had a breakthrough in Westchester County, achieving co-op transparency legislation that set forth a timetable that co-op Boards had to follow when acting on applications, and which required co-op Boards to report instances when they rejected applications to the Westchester County Human Rights Commission.
From December of 2018 until this year, a total of 573 co-op applicant rejections were reported to the Westchester County Human Rights Commission. That truly gave us the ammunition we needed to argue that additional work had to be done to achieve a more transparent process for co-op transactions. New legislation was introduced that would modify the existing law and require that co-op boards must state a reason when they reject an applicant, which has always been our primary goal. Further modifications required co-op board members to take Fair Housing training. HGAR representatives were there every step of the way, attending virtual Committee meetings and a public hearing before the Board of Legislators, and this time around proponents of the legislation outnumbered the opponents.
Finally, on June 28th, 2021, the Westchester County Board of Legislators passed the amended legislation by an overwhelming margin, and Westchester County Executive George Latimer signed the bill into law that same night. I want to thank Westchester County Legislator Catherine Borgia, the sponsor of the bill and its staunchest proponent, for all of her efforts over the last several years. I also want to acknowledge the efforts of HGAR’s Government Affairs Director Phil Weiden who was always on top of this issue. Finally, I want to thank all the Realtors who never gave up on this issue over the last 30 years; J.P. Endres, John and Carol Kope, Dorothy Botsoe, Leah Caro, just to name a few, with a special shout out to Barry Kramer, who was relentless in his advocacy on this issue.
If there is a moral to this story, it is never give up. If you know the cause is right and just, persevere and keep climbing the mountain because you will eventually get to the top, even if it takes 30 years!
On a different topic, as we have reported previously, I am very excited that HGAR has hired Freddimir (Freddy) Garcia as our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. Freddy will be engaging with the membership on DEI issues in the weeks and months to come. For the balance of July, we will also be conducting a survey of HGAR members concerning diversity issues. Please do take the time to complete this important survey. It will enable us to know more about our members so we can provide the necessary support and services to help you succeed and thrive in your careers. Thank you.