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Judge Finds Garden City Un-Fair

Village found to be in violation; vows to appeal

On Friday, Dec. 6, Federal District Judge Arthur Spatt ruled that the Village of Garden City violated the Fair Housing Act, and ordered the plaintiffs to submit a proposal for how the village might address the issue, to which the village must then respond.

The case stemmed from a 2004 plan by former County Executive Thomas Suozzi to sell developers the 25-acre site of the Department of Social Services office. Suozzi requested the zoning be changed to allow 311 units of multi-family housing. Negative reaction from the public prompted village officials to limit the zoning to 150 town houses, 90 single-family homes, or a combination of the two with each option allowing for up to 36 multifamily units.

Garden City public servants declined to speak on the record, but an official statement released by village spokesman Ed Grilli denied that racial discrimination motivated the zoning decisions.

“Nothing in the new zoning designation prohibited the building of affordable housing,” Grilli said, indicated the village would mount an appeal as soon as possible. “The village’s decision was made based on legitimate concerns over increased traffic congestion, parking, school and public service impacts and population density.”

The suit was originally filed in 2005 by the non-profit organizations New York Communities for Change and MHANY Management Co., the latter of which is a community-based developer of affordable housing formerly known as the New York ACORN Housing Company, Inc (NYAHC). And while Nassau County was also named as a defendant in the original suit, a summary decision dismissed the case against the county. That left the Incorporated Village of Garden City and the Garden City Board of Trustees the sole defendants. The two-week trial took place over the summer, but the judge’s ruling was released earlier this month.

Justice Spatt’s decision requires the plaintiffs to submit within 30 days a remedial plan to make affordable housing a reality in Garden City. The village will then have 30 days to provide its proposal for a remedial plan followed by a response from the plaintiffs which must be submitted in 15 days. This grand total of 75 days precedes the court issuing another written decision detailing the final steps.

And while the village stated its intent to appeal, according to Frederick Brewington, Esq., co-counsel for the plaintiffs, that can’t happen until the two parties discuss possible remedial actions.

“The matter is not ripe for appeal until the final judgment in this matter is issued,” Brewington explained. “The court has to issue another decision in this case. The court at this point, after receiving the briefings from the parties, will in all likelihood issue another written decision with how to solve the discriminatory actions which Garden City took.”

Other Long Island municipalities have faced similar actions. This recent ruling regarding discriminatory housing practices follows a 2009 lawsuit against the Village of Island Park by the U.S. Justice Department and multiple suits filed against the Town of Huntington dating back to 1969.