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Zoning Federal Ruling Is Wrong

This submission by Garden City attorney Thomas F. Liotti is a response to the “Judge Finds Garden City Un-Fair” article that ran in the Dec. 11-17 issue of Garden City Life.

The recent federal ruling holding that the Village of Garden City intentionally discriminated against minorities because it would not agree to have low income housing there is wrong. Home Rule allows Garden City to control its own zoning. Like many other communities, Garden City is de facto segregated not because of racial discrimination but due to economic circumstances.

There is another long-standing problem. The Department of Social Services Building, the site of this controversy, has been abandoned for years. Its 27-acre building and parking areas are desperately needed for our courts which are in complete disrepair and inadequate. All other counties in the State have modernized their courts. Only Nassau lags far behind. Eventually the Courts will have to be expanded in the Mineola/Garden City area. The Family Court and District Court should both move there. County Seat Drive should be developed to allow for underground and tiered parking. All of this could be done without disturbing the ambiance of surrounding residential property owners or depleting their property values. If this is not done, then we will indeed have intolerable congestion. Any plan for the development of that area must preserve the residential character of the community.

A careful view of Garden City shows that it already has a great number of apartments and more could be built due north behind the shopping areas on the West side of Franklin Avenue but then again why not in Hempstead? It makes more sense to upgrade Hempstead than it does to downgrade Garden City.

It is wrong for federal courts to usurp the Home Rule powers of Garden City and force that community to accept low income housing under the guise of the Fair Housing Act. This ruling has the potential to destroy the pristine, first planned community in the United States – Garden City. Garden City welcomes anyone who can afford to live there. The same would be true of Park Avenue in New York City; Beverly Hills, California or Palm Beach, Florida.

When Roosevelt Field was developed 60 years ago it pulled all of the great stores such as Abraham & Strauss, Arnold Constable and Browning King Fifth Avenue out of Hempstead. Hempstead’s tax base was undermined and “white flight” ensued. Do we want the same thing to happen to Garden City? Force feeding a local community with low income housing is a huge mistake. Social engineering at the expense of homeowners is simply unfair.

Thomas F. Liotti is an attorney in Garden City, village justice in Westbury and former chair of the Civil Rights Committee of the Nassau Bar Association.