Perhaps you read a lengthy and largely admiring profile last Sunday about the nonagenarian broker credited with helping to save Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, from a downhill slide.
In that piece, Mary Kay Gallagher is quoted as saying that she got into real estate as a kind of civic duty, “to help find responsible guardians for the shingled, gabled and columned behemoths in her own backyard.”
As suburbia beckoned many of the middle-class white families that had populated the Flatbush area, the minority population surged to 20 percent in 1970 from 2 percent in 1960, according to the Times article on the woman. Blockbusting by brokers wanting to repurpose the area became a viable threat.
Once the so-called Old Guard moved out, what mattered to the 90-year-old broker was replacing them with owners who cared enough and could afford to maintain their properties and preserve the neighborhood’s aesthetic.
Forty years later, after she went into business, there are those, the Times says, who contend she unfairly steered minority buyers from the best properties. The newspaper continued:
“Ms. Gallagher, a nightly devotee of Bill O’Reilly, is no diplomat, and sure, her best friends (most of them dead) were white. And yes, she tends to grill prospective owners like a one-woman co-op board.
“‘But I sell to blacks, to Asians, to Republicans; I sell to Jewish people, even though I would make a bad Jew because they have too many rules. I don’t think I’m racist. I don’t say I’m such a good Catholic, either, but I know I’m not a bad one.’”
As Gallagher put it, “I care who moves in, because what happens to these houses matters to me.”
She might have just as well painted a target on her back for the aim of the authorities. By making her statements in the august New York Times, she may be implying violations of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion and national origin, among other characteristics (known as “protected classes”).
Although Mary Kay Gallagher may have enjoyed the attention, I predict the day will come–if it hasn’t already–when she will deeply regret the interview and what she revealed about herself, at least to me.
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Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022