HEMPSTEAD, NY—A federal judge has ordered the Village of Garden City and its Board of Trustees to implement a number of changes to their residential housing practices to remedy the effects of their prior intentionally discriminatory conduct. The case was brought by New York Communities for Change and affordable housing developer MHANY Management against the Village of Garden City in Nassau County, on Long Island.
The judgment comes on the heels of the judge’s December 6, 2013 ruling that Garden City violated the Fair Housing Act, the United States Constitution and other civil rights statutes when it enacted a zoning ordinance in 2004 in response to public pressure to keep minority households out of Garden City. That discriminatory action, the Court found, perpetuated deep-seated segregation that has allowed Garden City to remain a steadfastly white enclave surrounded by predominantly minority neighboring towns.
In the final judgment, Federal Judge Arthur Spatt imposed several mandatory affirmative remedies. Garden City must conduct annual in-person training for all elected officials and housing employees, and enact a Fair Housing Resolution to “assure equal housing opportunities and nondiscrimination in its zoning and other land use processes.” Garden City and its trustees are enjoined from violating fair housing laws in the future and Garden City also will be required to hire an independent third party compliance officer and pay for all remedial measures.
The court also imposed several remedies that open the door for affordable housing in Garden City for the first time in the century-old town’s existence. If Nassau County, which owns the parcel of land at issue and was a defendant in the case until 2012, announces that it intends to sell the property within one year of the judgment, Garden City must re-zone the site to allow for development of multifamily housing.
If Nassau County does not announce that it intends to sell the site within one year of the judgment, Garden City must set aside 10% of any future multifamily developments for affordable housing, join the Nassau County Urban Consortium (a group of municipalities in Nassau County that are eligible to receive federal funding for affordable housing development), and participate in Consortium activities.
“We believe this victory will be the first of many so that more affordable housing is built in Garden City and Long Island,” says Diane Goins, chairperson of the LI Chapter of New York Communities for Change. “Communities of color are suffering because of the housing crisis and racism that exists today.”
Stanley Brown, lead counsel for the plaintiffs and a partner at Hogan Lovells US LLP adds, “Local and state governments need to take note of this case, and understand that using restrictive zoning to bar minority residency will not be tolerated.”
Notes co-counsel Joseph Rich, co-director of the Fair Housing and Community Development Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington D.C., “This is an extremely important case that was brought to break down discriminatory barriers to affordable housing erected by Garden City and to ensure that housing that will promote residential desegregation becomes a reality. The Court’s December decision finding Garden City had intentionally discriminated in violation of the Fair Housing Act and this final order setting forth actions that must be taken by Garden City to remedy this discrimination are very important steps in achieving that goal.”