Judge: Village's 2004 Zoning Ordinance Violated Fair Housing Act

Judge Arthur Spatt rules zoning changes "perpetuated deep-seated segregation that has allowed Garden City to remain an overwhelmingly white enclave surrounded by predominantly minority neighboring towns."

A U.S. District Court judge ruled Friday that a 2004 Garden City zoning ordinance intentionally discriminated against minorities in an attempt to keep them from living in the village.
A U.S. District Court judge ruled Friday that a 2004 Garden City zoning ordinance intentionally discriminated against minorities in an attempt to keep them from living in the village.
A U.S. District Court judge ruled Friday that a 2004 Garden City zoning ordinance intentionally discriminated against minorities in an attempt to keep them from living in the village.

Judge Arthur Spatt, who ruled in February 2012 that the case against Garden City should proceed, said the village violated the federal Fair Housing Act, the United States Constitution and other civil rights statutes when it illegally discriminated "on the basis of race and national origin against minorities in Nassau County" and "perpetuated deep-seated segregation that has allowed Garden City to remain an overwhelmingly white enclave surrounded by predominantly minority neighboring towns."

The trial began in June at the U.S. Federal Court House in Central Islip, eight years after plaintiffs NY Communities for Change and MHANY Management Co. first filed the suit. (New York Communities for Change is a not-for-profit membership organization devoted to improving the quality of life for members of low income communities in New York and MHANY Management Co. is a not-for-profit community-based developer of affordable housing.)

Charges were first made against the village when the now defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) group claimed Garden City officials purposely changed its zoning codes to disallow affordable housing at a multi-family housing development proposed for the old Social Services site off Eleventh Street.

To accomplish the goals of his real estate consolidation plan, former county executive Tom Suozzi requested that the village re-zone the area, which only allowed for public use, to provide for residential if the county were to sell the property to a private developer.

The Village of Garden City, which does not own the property but does have zoning jurisdiction, changed the zoning to allow for luxury homes and town houses.

The plaintiffs alleged Garden City’s actions were intended to keep affordable housing - and African Americans or Latinos who might occupy such housing - out of Garden City.

The district court found that “discrimination played a determinative role” in Garden City’s decision to reject the originally proposed zoning in favor of the low-density zoning, and that minorities “bore the brunt of the negative impacts” of that decision.

Judge Spatt has ordered the plaintiffs to submit a remedial plan to the court that will serve as a "roadmap for Garden City to take affirmative steps to remedy the lingering effects of such discrimination, and will prohibit future discrimination."

Diane Goins, chairperson of the LI Chapter of New York Communities for Change, said it's outrageous that in 2013 it took a lawsuit to "expose Garden City’s blatant and illegal policies of housing discrimination."

"Today we made a very important, long overdue step in the right direction," she said. "Any municipality that thinks they can get away with housing discrimination in 2013 needs to be clear that NYCC members won’t stop fighting for fairness until housing discrimination is a thing of the past.”

Stanley Brown, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said the ruling will send a strong message to other government entities that the use of restrictive zoning to discourage minority residency will not be tolerated.

"It has been a long, eight year fight and we are honored to have helped secure a groundbreaking victory for civil rights," he said.

Co-counsel Fred Brewington added, “After years of asking Garden City to open its doors to affordable housing, it is unfortunate that it took a court decision to force them to realize that everyone should have a chance to live and be educated in Garden City. This is a landmark decision that sends a clear and strong message that discrimination, no matter how you try to mask it will be rooted out and challenged."
Jack O'Niel December 06, 2013 at 04:23 PM
No affordable housing, why should we subsidize this and destroy our schools? This isn't about race, it is about income and anyone can live in GC if they can afford a house or condo. I think we all knew this decision was coming and they shouldn't have played games back in 2004 but if they stick low-income housing in GC it will not be a good thing for our kids or our property values.
Steve F December 06, 2013 at 04:23 PM
I don't get it? Minorities who could afford to live in the community lived here for years? Everyone should have a chance to live and be educated in Garden City???? Gee can I get my taxes lowered if we are now going to allow everyone a chance to use out village?
William Dalton December 06, 2013 at 08:41 PM
I'm sure Judge Spatt would have ruled differently for his hometown of Great Neck. No doubt about that.
spectator December 06, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Brewington said “... it is unfortunate that it took a court decision to force them to realize that everyone should have a chance to live and be educated in Garden City." It's amazing, to me, that Mr Brewington doesn't understand that EVERYONE does have the chance to live and be educated in Garden City. It just takes hard work, drive and motivation. I think that the old saying "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" perfectly fits in this situation. The people who have worked hard to live in GC appreciate and strive for what they have. Those that are "given" things tend not to ever learn how to achieve more and they don't appreciate what they haven't had to work for.
Adelphi Estates December 07, 2013 at 10:39 AM
"perpetuated deep-seated segregation that has allowed Garden City to remain an overwhelmingly white enclave surrounded by predominantly minority neighboring towns." What!? West Hempstead, GC South, Franklin Sq.,Stewart Manner, New Hyde Park, Mineola... These are not 'minority' towns. That statement is out out touch at best, and downright imflamitory at worst.
William Dalton December 07, 2013 at 12:05 PM
Liberal judge thinks he's changing he world for humanity during his last days on Earth in a town which won't impact his personal life. He'd wouldn't be able to show his face in Great Neck if he cast the same broad stroked judgment on his community. Oh the hypocrisy! Only people who have clawed their way to live in a community such as Garden City understand the labor and efforts involved. We all have our stories of how we were able to make Garden City our home. In fact, my own way was not with a silver spoon, but sacrifice. Again , there are thousands of the same stories in our town. The truth is adding low income housing will only bring more crime. The same crime which is evident along the southern border of our town. It's a poverty story, not a story of race. Any race is welcome in our town , but it is earned, not handed out.
dtcdolan December 07, 2013 at 05:51 PM
Anyone, regardless of race, can live in Garden City if they have worked hard and earned the right and sacrificed to live here. No one who lives here was "given" anything. It is not a RIGHT to live here..it is a privilege. Should I be given the right to live in Kings Point, or any other Gold Coast town if I can't afford it??? I don't think so...
GCres2 December 07, 2013 at 06:22 PM
oh now its about hard work, drive and motivation?? our trustees were just crying poverty for all of us in that we cant afford to have fire protection above that of our all volunteer department neighbors. so do we have the money from hard work and motivation or do we not? this village cant make its mind up. in great neck its my understanding they pay salary and benefits to a whole slue of maintenance men and women to be firefighters. at least we were doing right before we destroyed what was a perfect system.
Uly Franco December 07, 2013 at 09:56 PM
This Village is finally getting what it deserves.
Steve F December 07, 2013 at 10:02 PM
Lol Great Neck DOES NOT have paid firefighters but you know who does? Garden City still has paid firefighters, and is still only 1 of 2 departments on LI that are paid. Our ranks are just a bit leaner right now.
D.R.St-Jacques December 09, 2013 at 10:30 AM
As I and others have said is prior writings on this matter; the criteria for living in any neighborhood is that one truly wants to live there, has the means to live there, and will support the neighborhood and help maintain it. I might like to live on Sutton Place in Manhattan but I do not have the financial resources to live there. Therefore I will not try to ruin that neighborhood for the sake of bringing it down.
Jack O'Niel December 09, 2013 at 10:50 AM
They don't want affordable housing, they want free housing. If they wanted affordable there are apts in Cherry Valley that are very reasonably priced. This is a shakedown, that's all it is. How it went from the original suit to this is unreal and takes quite a few leaps to get here. Race baiting at it's finest supported by liberal judges.
Sue Eigl December 10, 2013 at 07:06 AM
Well lets see I'd like to live in Old Brookville may I please? Can I do it for a fraction of what all the other residents pay? + Maybe I'm discriminated against t ooWhat bs if you can afford to live in GC so be it I know lots of minorities living here that financially struggles less then my family they drive better cars and have better jobs then me So yes they have earned a right and have in their opinion bettered their life by moving to a great community
kent penney December 10, 2013 at 07:10 AM
http://www.cato.org/blog/building-housing-some-people-cant-afford-isnt-racist The Supreme court will hear a case involving the claim of 'Disparate Impact' in Dec/Jan. I hope they don't repeat their grievous mistake w/ NoBamacare.
Sue Eigl December 10, 2013 at 07:13 AM
We are also a town with houses from $5000K n up to a few million I think that is deverse. If you can afford a house in the 5s 6s etc you can live here less for coops and condos Many other towns on Long Island have the same prices so what is the problem?? Old ideas about discrimination in general ?? Or just nonsense squeaking by idiots who want a lot for very little!
G5 February 14, 2014 at 04:51 PM
Racism unfortunately exists in people of all color, though fortunately, things have come a long way over the years. Are there racist people living in Garden City, who do not want low-income/affordable housing built in Garden City, yes, I would image so. Are there non-racist village residents who do not want low-income/affordable housing built in Garden City? Yes. Here’s the logic, do people living in the village want the traffic that the court buildings generate driving down Washington Ave, or what Roosevelt Field generates down Old Country Road to go away? Yes, of course they do, because that traffic affects their quality of life/home values due to the noise pollution the traffic produces. All village homes near heavily traffic roads are typically priced lower and are harder to sell, and none of that has to do with the color of the people driving by their homes. So, is it fair to say, there is a legitimate reason for people to not want to see their home values decrease? Yes. Does a 500k home built next to a million dollar home affect the value of the higher priced home adversely? Yes. Do lower priced homes negatively affect the price of higher priced homes that they are built right next to? Yes. Are people who happen to live in lower priced homes bad people because of the fact that they live in a lower valued home or in general? No. Do people, living in lower priced homes, even if they are racist, want the value of their home to go down? No, so, racist or not, who wants the price of their homes to be lower, due to nearby traffic, commercial properties, etc. Regardless of the innocents of the cause of a property value decrease, no one wants their asset to drop in value. I believe that this is the position of the majority of my neighbors and it is sad that this has become a race issue. Worse still, supposedly the village has wasted 10 million dollars on its legal defense on this discriminatory claim. The only potential form of racism at work here is the racism of money, which is not illegal. I wish I could afford to live in Sands Point on the water, with that multimillion-dollar view of the city, but I cannot, however if it were subsidized at a price I could afford, of course I would take it, who wouldn’t? This is a very complex issue, from both perspectives, but don’t make this a race issue, simply because on the surface the racist/non-racist in the village share the same position of not wanting the price of their homes to go lower. Racism needs to be addressed by how you raise your children, how you treat your co-workers, how you interact with people, not by putting affordable housing in an affluent neighborhood for those who “have less materialism” next to those who “have more materialism”. I don’t know the solution as to where to put low income/affordable homes, but this isn’t it. The ironic part is that only the racists on both sides of this argument seem to be winning, think about it. Last comment, 10 million dollars in legal fees, and they lost? I am in the wrong business.
D.R.St-Jacques February 15, 2014 at 01:15 PM
Is it affordable housing or free housing? Is there something wrong with the areas where those that want this housing currently live? Has there been any effort to improve those areas and the housing and their schools if that is the problem? What will be accomplished, for the good of Garden City, if the so called affordable housing materializes? How will those who might then live in that housing benefit? When I and my family moved to Garden City 35 years ago it not only required the monies from the sale of our house in Queens but also considerable more money from savings. But we did it. We improved the house and property throughout the past years. We conformed to the Village regulations so as to see a betterment in the Village. If the type of housing that is the topic of the court case comes about can we assume that the occupants of whatever race or nationality, of that housing, will strive to improve that area and seek the betterment of our Village?


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