(White Plains, NY) -- Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers) expressed serious concern today regarding County Executive Robert P. Astorino’s continuing actions potentially sabotaging the County’s fair and affordable housing settlement with the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Chairman Jenkins notes his worries about the housing settlement in a letter delivered to the County Executive this afternoon. Last month, Jenkins learned that the Astorino Administration had received notice back in November 2011 from HUD that the County needed to amend its Human Rights Law to show that it will litigate a fair housing complaint (after the County’s Human Rights Commission determined there was reasonable cause to believe a violation of the Law had occurred) in court on behalf of aggrieved individuals who choose to pursue civil action. This would ensure the County is compliance with the federal Fair Housing Act, and would then lead the County to obtain full certification and preserve participation in the Fair Housing Assistance program.
The letter from HUD asked that the County have its amended law in place by February 28, 2012. Jenkins was made aware of the letter via email dated February 17, 2012 from HUD, and he immediately asked for an extension of the HUD directive.
HUD did, indeed, grant the County an extension to amend the Human Rights Law—thanks to Jenkins’s quick action. But a month has passed, and the Astorino Administration still has not apprised the BOL about the HUD directive from November 2011—or any other new correspondences or directives regarding the housing settlement.
“The continued failure of your Administration to communicate critical information to the County Board to this date is disappointing,” Jenkins writes to Astorino in today’s letter. “The County Board should have been made aware immediately of this important communication from HUD requiring County Board action. Substantial equivalency of the County’s Human Rights Law to the Fair Housing Act is a critical component of the County’s Housing Stipulation Agreement.”
Because the Astorino Administration has ignored parts of the Stipulations and Agreements of the settlement regarding Source of Income legislation and exclusionary zoning, over $7 million in Community Development Block (CDBG) grants for the County have been suspended—and could be lost, depending on the result of an ongoing federal court review. A court is expected to rule on whether these impediments disqualify the County’s Master Plan for the settlement. Meanwhile, at the request of the County Executive, the BOL approved Westchester County's application for CDBG funding.
“The people of Westchester should know the County Executive, instead of administering the housing settlement, as required by law, continues to thumb his nose at the federal government while keeping the Board of Legislators in the dark on what is being asked of the County,” said Jenkins. “The Board of Legislators would like to move forward with the Administration as partners in governance, but it doesn’t look like that’s what the County Executive has in mind, and we will all end up paying the consequences as a result.”