(Adds statement from Westchester County)
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK, April 28 A federal appeals court on
Friday admonished New York's wealthy Westchester County to stop
its "total obstructionism" in implementing an agreement
designed to boost affordable housing.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its warning
after finding that Westchester, one of the nation's richest
suburbs, twice breached a 2009 consent decree requiring it to
build 750 affordable housing units in 31 mostly white
"We are surprised by the court's comments" given
Westchester's efforts to implement the decree, Ned McCormack, a
spokesman for County Executive Rob Astorino, said in a
Westchester had agreed with the federal government to enter
the decree in connection with the settlement of a lawsuit by the
nonprofit Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro New York.
It said roughly 400 of the affordable units are already
occupied, and that it has lined up more building permits and
financing than required.
But U.S. District Judge Denise Cote last year found
Westchester in breach by failing to build 28 units at Chappaqua
Station in the town of New Castle.
She also found the county in breach for failing to complete
an analysis acceptable to the Department of Housing and Urban
Development of race-based and other impediments to fair housing.
In Friday's order, a three-judge appeals court panel agreed
that the failure to build the 28 units reflected Westchester's
"inconsistent, slow, and half-hearted" support for the project,
and refusal to use the required "all available means as
appropriate" to counteract local opposition.
It also said HUD had "good reason" to reject Westchester's
analysis of fair housing barriers, including its lack of
adequate strategies to address "problematic" zoning practices.
But the court saved its strongest criticism for the end,
after noting that its order covered Westchester's sixth and
seventh appeals over its compliance with the decree.
"All of these appeals have been rejected, and it is apparent
that the county is engaging in total obstructionism," it said.
"The county would be well-advised to stop making excuses,
and to complete its obligations under the consent decree with
diligence and dispatch," it added.
McCormack said Westchester has been working with a federal
monitor and a consultant hired to study fair housing impediments
to complete its remaining obligations under the decree.
The Anti-Discrimination Center did not immediately respond
to a request for comment.
The case is U.S. ex rel Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro
New York Inc v Westchester County, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals, Nos. 16-2540, 16-2549.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan
Oatis and Diane Craft)