Court rules Long Island village engaged in housing discrimination

GARDEN CITY, Long Island (WABC) -- A federal court has ruled that a 2004 zoning decision by the Village of Garden City discriminated against African-Americans and Latinos.

"The Fair Housing Act enshrined the promise of open communities in federal law," said Joe Rich, co-director of the Fair Housing & Community Development Project at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, who represented the plaintiffs in the case. "The court's decision reiterates that the Village of Garden City's exclusionary practices are unacceptable in American society."

The lawsuit, brought forth by MHANY Management and New York Communities for Change, was filed against the village in 2005. It accused the village of discrimination by approving a zoning classification that would have prevented multi-family housing from being built on a 25-acre parcel of property at the intersection of Washington Avenue and 11th Street. Opponents of the ordinance said it was a way for the village to block minorities from moving in to the predominantly white area.

"It's time for Garden City to stop supporting its past bias, its past discrimination and realize that it has done wrong and change their ways," attorney Frederick Brewington said. "It's really not about that piece of land. It's about the bigger issue. It's about affordable housing in a place that has basically locked and chained the borders."

In the end, the contract was awarded to a developer of single-family homes, although no homes were ever built because of the lawsuit.

"We have been fighting segregation in Garden City for an awful long time," said Mary Crosson, Chair of Long Island Chapter New York Communities for Change and Hempstead School Board Trustee. "We are happy that the court has supported our struggle against segregation in Garden City and on Long Island. This is another step forward and we are hopeful that Garden City will one day welcome African-Americans as neighbors."

In 2014, a district court required Garden City to adopt and implement an inclusionary zoning ordinance that mandates 10 percent of units in new developments of five units or more be affordable to low-income households. At that time, the village also appointed a fair-housing compliance officer.

"Garden City, at this point, and its decision makers need to stop wasting taxpayer funds fighting in the courts," Brewington said. "We're not talking about thousands of dollars. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting against people who want to be neighbors."

In 2016, the Garden City Village Board approved a ban on housing discrimination.

Eyewitness News has reached out to the village for comment on the court ruling.
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