Trump Company Sued For Racial Discrimination By Black Doctor

on August 24, 2018 in New York City.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images North America

An African American doctor accused one of President Donald Trump’s companies of racial discrimination in a lawsuit filed earlier this month.

The lawsuit was brought in New York state court by Dr. Peggy-Rose Elango who was seeking to lease medical office space in Trump Palace Condominiums, a Manhattan skyscraper Trump built in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Elango went through a months-long lease negotiation process in early 2018 for the space under the impression it was permitted to be used for a medical office, the lawsuit said. However, despite being listed as a “professional space” suitable for a medical office and despite its previous tenants using it as a medical office going back to 1993, it did not have the proper occupancy licensing for a medical office — a fact that the real estate agent who listed it as a medical office allegedly knew as early as December 2017.

According to the lawsuit, Elango was not made aware of this issue as her offer to the space’s owner was accepted in January and as she put together an application to the Trump Corporation for the Trump Palace Condominium Board to approve her lease in February. Her application was rejected by the condo board in mid-March, according to the lawsuit, which said the board provided the doctor with no justification for the rejection.

Elango alleged that the space’s owner, the owner’s lawyer and the real estate firm that had listed the space misled her. She is bringing a racial discrimination claim under a New York City human rights law against Trump Corporation, Trump Palace and the condo board, alleging that other spaces in the building are being leased as medical offices without the proper occupancy certificates.

“Upon information and belief, no corrective action or other affirmative act has been taken by Trump Palace, the Board, and/or Trump Corp. to require the other subject units at the Building being illegally leased, rented and/or occupied as medical offices to be vacated and/or brought to legal compliance,” the lawsuit said. “Based on the foregoing, the denial and/or refusal to lease and/or rent the Premises to Elango Medical by setting and enforcing different terms, conditions or privileges for the rental or leasing of the Premises is without sound basis or justification, and constitutes unlawful discrimination based on Dr. Elango’s actual or perceived race in violation of the NYC. Human Rights Law.”

Trump Corporation appears be a piece of President Trump’s business empire, now run by his sons under the umbrella company Trump Organization. Trump Corporation’s offices are in Trump Tower, according to the lawsuit. Eric Trump is listed as Trump Corporation’s chief executive officer in filings with the New York Department of State.

According to the lawsuit, during the lease negotiations, the attorney for the owner of the space Elango was trying to rent wrote to Katherine Budlong to inform her that the space had in fact been leased as a medical office since 1993. Budlong’s LinkedIn identifies her as a property manager coordinator for Trump Organization.

Alan Futerfas, an attorney for Eric Trump and for the Trump Organization, did not respond to TPM’s inquiry.

Neither the Corcoran Group nor the Corcoran agent who listed the space — who are both listed as defendants in the lawsuit — responded to TPM’s inquiry.

Corcoran placed the listing for a space describing it as a “‘professional space’ for physician/medical office use,” the lawsuit said, and after touring the space in January, Elango submitted an offer to the space’s owner, an entity called Bascombe Holdings Limited. Bascombe was represented in the lease negotiations by attorney Norman Schaumberger. Bascombe accepted Elango’s offer and a lease was signed by her medical firm, which also is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, on Feb.9 2018, according to the lawsuit

Elango’s initial package for the Trump Palace condo board to review was submitted with Trump Corporation, which was acting as an agent for the board, on Feb. 15, the lawsuit said. Later that month, Corcoran Group submitted its commission invoice, which listed the space as an “apartment,” and the final package was delivered to Trump Corporation on Feb 23, according to the lawsuit.

The Board issued its rejection on March 13, nearly two weeks after the lease was expected to begin on March 1, according to the lawsuit.

Throughout these negotiations,  Schaumberger, the owner’s lawyer, informed Elango and her representatives that the space had been leased as medical’s office since 1993, including after Bascombe bought the space in 2001, and that its use as such continued through August 2017, according to the lawsuit.

However, weeks earlier, on December 17, 2017, the Corcoran agent involved in the listing, David Garland, allegedly told Schaumberger he would be offering the space as a condominium, the lawsuit said. In late February, Garland — despite having listed the space as a medical office — informed Schaumberger that the space’s occupancy certificate did not cover medical use, a conclusion Garland said had been reached a “month ago,” according to the lawsuit.

On March 1, as Elango awaited the board’s decision on her application, Schaumberger allegedly wrote to the board, seeking that the lease be approved as a medical office, and also informed Trump Corporation, Garland and Elango’s representative that if had been leased as such since 1993.

“The Plaintiffs waited patiently for the Board’s decision, only to realize later that all the named Defendants had direct knowledge that the Premises lacked the proper certificate of occupancy for medical office use,” the lawsuit said, adding that Elango suffered lost revenue, wages, travel and storage fees due to the alleged concealment.

The lawsuit alleges that the space’s owner, the attorney Schaumberger, Corcoran Group and its agent Garland engaged in fraudulent misrepresentation and concealment. Corcoran and Garland also face allegations of deceptive acts and practices and false advertising, under New York state law, as well as negligence.

Read the lawsuit below:

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