Elaine Gross is the Founder and President of ERASE Racism, the civil rights organization based on Long Island that exposes and addresses the devastating impact of historical and ongoing structural racism, particularly in housing and public school education.
It does so through research, policy advocacy, legal action, and educating and mobilizing the public – driving policy change at local, regional, and statewide levels and through national coalitions.
Ms. Gross has led ERASE Racism to prominence as a champion of fair housing, heightening public understanding of the context of structural racism as it relates to housing discrimination and segregation.
Ms. Gross started in 2016 the statewide campaign that led in 2019 to New York’s enactment of a ban on housing discrimination against people who depend on legal non-wage sources of income to pay for their rent.
That campaign, later co-led by ERASE Racism and three other organizations, grew to include more than 100 organizations. As a result, it is now illegal in New York for landlords – except in owner-occupied buildings with two or fewer units – to turn away tenants who receive any form of legal non-wage income such as alimony, Section 8 housing support and other public benefits for veterans and people with disabilities.
She also initiated research on racial discrimination in the rental housing market on Long Island that led to successful legal action against discriminatory real estate owners and managers in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
That research provided a model for Newsday’s landmark 2019 study “Long Island Divided,” which used the same techniques to investigate racial discrimination in the homebuying market, and in turn prompted two public hearings on Long Island held jointly by three New York State Senate Committees in 2021.
Ms. Gross was invited to testify and offer recommendations at both joint hearings, and those hearings led to the enactment in 2021 of nine State fair housing laws.
Ms. Gross has similarly provided the vision and programmatic leadership for ERASE Racism’s Education Equity Initiative. She has led educational and policy advocacy campaigns to promote culturally responsive-sustaining education and educator diversity.
She has created such ERASE Racism services as Education Equity Seminars and Leadership Development Programs for educators, students and parents. She supervised the creation of the award-winning documentary “A Tale of Two Schools: Race and Education on Long Island.”
She has also brought to public attention ERASE Racism’s authoritative research on school segregation, including creating an infographic revealing that segregation in Long Island’s public schools is still growing.
To enhance public awareness and the context in which policymaking takes place, Ms. Gross has elevated public engagement on the topic of racial equity in the region. She has frequently delivered speeches to government, nonprofit, and business groups, colleges and universities.
She has published opinion articles and appears regularly in influential media. She is a member of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council and the Board of Directors of the State of New York Mortgage Agency, as well as other boards.
Ms. Gross was hired in 2001 by the Long Island Community Foundation, where she conceived and launched the ERASE Racism Initiative, which became an independent not-for-profit corporation in 2004.
She graduated from Boston University, where she earned her MSW with a focus on community organizing, policy, planning and non-profit management.