Sunday, April 03, 2016

U.S. Appeals Court: Affluent, Overwhelming White Long Island Town's Abrupt Shift To Pass Restrictive Zoning Rules In Response To Vocal Opposition To Proposed Housing Project Amounted To Discrimination Against Minorities; Opponents Avoided Use Of Overtly Racist Remarks At Public Hearings, Instead Used Euphemisms That Amounted To "Code Words For Racial Animus"

In Garden City, Long Island, The Associated Press reports:
  • Officials in an affluent suburban New York village acquiesced to race-based opposition to a housing project and changed zoning codes to discriminate against minorities, a federal appeals court said [] as it also opened the door to one of America's most affluent counties facing claims it steered affordable housing to its lowest-income communities.

    The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upheld a judge's finding that the village of Garden City on Long Island discriminated against minorities in a zoning decision made after Nassau County decided to sell some land. The court noted village residents used racially biased code words to convince public officials to exclude minorities by changing the land's zoning to mostly exclude multi-family dwellings.

    The appeals court said that Garden City residents at public hearings, for instance, claimed multi-family housing would change the "flavor" and "character" of the village and that any construction should involve "upscale" units. It also highlighted residents' claims that their community might become like Brooklyn and Queens, New York City boroughs where minorities are the majority.

    "Garden City's argument appears to boil down to the following — because no one ever said anything overtly race-based, this was all just business as usual," the 2nd Circuit said in a decision written by Circuit Judge Rosemary Pooler. "But the district court was entitled to conclude ... that something was amiss here, and that Garden City's abrupt shift in zoning in the face of vocal citizen opposition to changing the character of Garden City represented acquiescence to race-based animus."
    In its opinion, the 2nd Circuit reinstated Nassau County as a defendant, saying Spatt must consider whether the county of more than 1.3 million people adjacent to New York City intentionally steers affordable housing to low-income, mostly-minority communities.

    The appeals court recounted at length a series of public hearings attended mostly by whites, saying Garden City residents used "recognized code words about low-income, minority housing" in making subtle references to immigrant families by complaining that full families might live in one-bedroom townhouses or that the wrong kind of housing complex might cause 10 people to live in an apartment and lead to overcrowded schools.

    "Citizen opposition, though not overtly race-based, was directed at a potential influx of poor, minority residents," the appeals court said, adding that a description of a Garden City public hearing was "eerily reminiscent" of a scene in an earlier court case involving housing discrimination in Yonkers.(1)
For the story, see Court: Racially Biased Code Words Used in NY Housing Case.

For the court ruling, see MHANY Mgmt., Inc. v. Cty. of Nassau et al., 14‐1634‐cv (2nd Cir. March 23, 2016).
(1) See Long Island Housing Bias Ruling Affirmed by 2nd Circ.:
  • Unlike the Yonkers case, Garden City's opponents did not make overtly racist remarks at public hearings. But the panel found that their euphemisms for preserving the village's "flavor" and "character" amounted to "code words for racial animus." restrictive zoning

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