Sunday, December 13, 2015

Private Developer Files Fair Housing Lawsuit In Effort To Force Northern NJ Town Into Re-Zoning 47-Acre Parcel For Multi-Family Affordable Housing; Accuses Borough Of Discriminating Against Blacks, Hispanics Through Exclusionary Zoning Practices

In Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, NorthJersey.com reports:
  • New Jersey's largest office landlord, Mack-Cali Realty, is suing the borough in federal court in support of a proposal to build up to 560 units of multifamily housing at the 47-acre site of an office building once occupied by Pearson.

    The federal lawsuit, filed last Monday in U.S. District Court, is the latest development in Mack-Cali's yearlong legal challenge to the borough. Mack-Cali, which has filed an application in the borough to demolish the office building, is claiming civil rights violations by Upper Saddle River on the state and federal level.

    Mack-Cali says the borough is refusing to change zoning to allow for the project, which would include a set-aside for low- and moderate-income housing mandated by the state courts. By doing so, Mack-Cali claims, the borough is unlawfully and intentionally discriminating against African-Americans and other black, Latino and Hispanic persons.

    "The borough has continuously and purposely acted to reject and obstruct the creation of any affordable and integrated multifamily housing opportunities by engaging in exclusionary zoning practices, which has actually or predictably perpetuated existing racial and ethnic housing segregation," reads the lawsuit.

    Mayor Joanne Minichetti said the borough had just been served the federal lawsuit on Thursday and that legal representatives were not ready to comment Friday.

    No one from Mack-Cali was available for comment on Friday.

    Mack-Cali says the borough has violated the federal Fair Housing Act and New Jersey discrimination law by depriving "John Does" of their right to equal housing. The company also is saying that the borough is depriving Mack-Cali "of its right to make housing available."

    In its federal lawsuit, Mack-Cali is asking the court to keep defendants from enforcing "discriminatory or exclusionary provisions of its [Upper Saddle River's] zoning ordinance." The company also is seeking a court order forcing the borough to change the zoning to allow for multifamily housing and it wants reimbursement of legal fees.

    Mack-Cali further claims Upper Saddle River engages in segregation and is asking the federal court to force the borough to take steps to "overcome the effects of past discriminatory practices."

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