A Queens homeless man is suing a low-income housing complex, charging that he was denied a unit because of his religion.
Larry Jackson, 53, a Jehova’s Witness who currently lives in a Jamaica shelter, filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Federal Court against the housing complex, the placement group and the offending worker.
“It was like someone threw a dagger in my heart,” said Jackson, who recalled that his religion came up briefly in conversation with the woman who handled his application.
That employee, identified in court papers as Joann Marion, thought he would go door-to-door in the 45-unit Glass Factory housing complex trying to spread his beliefs, Jackson was later told through a third-party.
“My faith is very important,” he said. “I never thought that would cost me getting a unit.”
This week, the state Division of Human Rights, where Jackson filed a separate complaint, found “probable cause” that discrimination may have occurred, according to Jackson’s lawyer, Locksley Wade.
That decision paves the way for a hearing in front of a judge, Wade said.
“Discrimination cases are very tough and difficult to prove,” said the attorney. “He’s made it through the doors of the courthouse. Most people don’t even make it up the steps.”
The state Division of Human Rights declined to comment Wednesday.
Officials with the Manhattan-based advocacy group Bowery Residents Committee, named in the lawsuit, touted its tireless advocacy for the less fortunate and said their practices are entirely above-board.
“BRC operates all its housing programs in full accordance with the law and applicable regulations,” Muzzy Rosenblatt, executive director, told the Daily News in an email.
More than 5,000 people were admitted to a BRC program last year, he said.
“BRC is a place of opportunity, where we offer people in need a hand up instead of a hand out,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, Jackson said his deep-rooted beliefs helped him shake a harsh drug addiction and tolerate being in a shelter for two years.
“I’m more passive about it,” Jackson said of his religions. “I don’t force it on anybody, just like they didn’t force it on me.”
He is seeking $60,000 in punitive damages and, above all, an apology.
“I just want to hurt them the way they hurt me,” he said.