ELIZABETH - Did the owners of an Elizabeth apartment complex refuse to rent to prospective tenants who are Muslim? The New Jersey attorney general thinks so and is filing a five-count discrimination complaint against William and Othilia Greda, owners of the Maple Garden Apartments, and an LLC they operate.
Fatma Farghaly contacted News 12 New Jersey in February after she says she answered a Craigslist ad for an apartment at the Maple Garden. She says after meeting with landlord William Greda, she was denied the opportunity to rent because she was wearing a Muslim head covering known as a khimar. She says Greda told her, “I don’t rent to Muslims.”
“I was shocked, like straight up, totally shocked,” Farghaly tells Kane In Your Corner. She pulled out her cellphone and recorded video as she confronted Greda, but the video is inconclusive. Farghaly can be heard, repeatedly asking “You don’t want to rent to me because I’m Muslim?” but Greda does not answer the question directly.
But New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino is convinced Greda engaged in discrimination at Maple Garden. The attorney general’s office sent in undercover investigators, and found they received disparate treatment based on whether they wore khimars.
The attorney general is now filing a five-count discrimination complaint against the Gredas and Maple Garden, LLC, an entity to which the attorney general says the Gredas transferred ownership of the apartments for $1 while the investigation was in process.
“People shouldn’t have to hide their religion or disguise their faith to be able to live where they choose to live,” Porrino says. “This really strikes at somebody’s most fundamental right.”
William Greda denied the allegations, blaming the complaint on “Muslims extorting money from businesses.” Greda told a Kane In Your Corner producer that he considered himself the victim of a conspiracy, which he accused the attorney general’s office of being part of.
In an interview with News 12 New Jersey’s Walt Kane, Greda used even more inflammatory language. “They’re Muslin extremists,” he said. “That’s what they are. ISIS. They came in for an apartment and they attacked me.”
The attorney general seemed taken aback when informed of Greda’s comments. “I’m not sure how to respond to that,” Porrino said, “except that he should let the judge know whatever his defense is going to be and the court will decide whether it has merit or not.”
The state is seeking damages on behalf of Fatma Farghaly, as well as punitive damages, civil penalties and attorney fees. The attorney general also wants training and monitoring at Maple Garden apartments in the future.