SYRACUSE, NY — A Syracuse fair-housing agency filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of six women on Tuesday alleging widespread sexual harassment by a landlord who they claim demanded sexual favors in exchange for rent.
In a 35-page filing, CNY Fair Housing says its investigation found flagrant fair-housing violations by Doug Waterbury between the years of 2012 and 2017.
The lawsuit alleges that Waterbury:
“(preys) upon women who need low-rent housing” and “aggressively and repeatedly pursues sexual trades from women seeking to rent (his) apartments, creates a severe and/or pervasive environment of sexual harassment … makes discriminatory statements on the basis of sex, and retaliates against women who reject his sexual advances.”
Waterbury, who owns the Renaissance Fair in Sterling, Sylvan Beach Amusement Park, Santa’s Workshop near Lake Placid, and about 50 rental properties mostly in the city of Oswego, has made no comment on the allegations.
According to the lawsuit, Waterbury allegedly solicited sex or oral sex from his tenants in exchange for waived security deposits or cheaper rent. The plaintiffs mentioned in the suit are reportedly women between 24 and 32 years old.
The lawsuit claims that when the women asked him if they could do work at his properties to lower the rent, he explicitly told them he wanted sex in exchange for the lower prices. When the women asked him to fix a furnace and get rid of rodents and overflowing garbage, they say Waterbury said they “were not as ‘fun’ as he wanted them to be, that they were not having sex with him as frequently as he wanted, and that they should not use protection.”
Three of the six women acquiesced to Waterbury’s demands and had sex with him — the other three refused and did not rent from him, one of them ending up homeless. Two of the women said they had sex with him about 15 times each for lower rent and to get him to clean up their property, and that he sometimes used his landlord’s key to enter their homes without permission.
The housing agency and plaintiffs demand a trial and compensatory damages to be determined by a jury. Oswego County District Attorney Greg Oakes has also declined comment. According to CNY Fair Housing, the investigation continues.
Main photo: Santa’s Workshop commercial [YouTube/screenshot]