County Executive formally declares war on Consent Decree
July 18, 2011 — Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino held a press conference this past Friday that underscored his determination never to comply with the terms of the historic housing desegregation Consent Decree that was entered in August 2009, almost two years ago.
The editorial page of the Westchester Journal News had this to say in response:
In both deed and stubborn word, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has made plain that he has no plans to honor key provisions of the False Claims Act/fair housing settlement brokered with Washington before he took office. The questions now: How far will his obstinance go; how much will it cost county residents - in dollars and prestige; and how long before Westchester ends up in federal court again? It would seem to be just a matter of time…
The noncompliant county executive is entitled to believe what he wants about race, housing choice and segregation in Westchester; he is not entitled to thumb his nose at the federal court and disavow obligations under HUD guidelines and the consent decree.
The sooner HUD, the monitor and, ultimately, the U.S. District Court hold him accountable, the better for Westchester and fair-housing choice throughout the county.
In his comments, the County Executive referred to demands to “dismantle local zoning” (the Consent Decree obliges the County to use its longstanding legal authority to overcome local exclusionary zoning): “I will not allow that to happen,” Astorino said.
The County Executive complained that he was no longer being asked to move forward on a “housing settlement” but on an “integration order,” and said: “We will not have a gun held to our heads to do things outside of our agreement.”
“[Astorino] disagreed with allegations that minorities are clustered throughout Westchester and that not enough has been done to integrate and expand those pockets,” a local news report said, quoting the County Executive as stating, “The impediment [as to where people can live] is economics. It’s been that way forever. It probably always will be. There are laws against racial discrimination.’”
“Of critical importance to note is that the 2010 census shows Westchester County to be one of the most diverse places in the United States,” claimed Astorino.
On “diversity,” 2010 Census data show that Westchester as a whole is 13.3 percent non-Latino, African-American, and 21.8 percent Latino, but that, in the 31 municipalities that are the principal subject of the Decree, 75.97 percent of populated census block groups had non-Latino African-American populations of less than 3.0 percent, and 51.24 percent of populated census block groups had both non-Latino, African-American population of less than 3.0 percent and Latino population of less than 7.0 percent. Learn more about how Westchester is characterized by ongoing residential segregation.
For information on Westchester’s obligations to use all means — including litigation — to overcome municipal barriers to affordable housing construction that has maximum desegregation potential, read the Consent Decree itself (the first two pages, plus paragraphs 7(j) and 22(f) are good places to start), as well as the memoranda in support of ADC’s motions to enforce and to intervene.
For illustrations of the kind of development sites that Westchester has been focusing on in order to evade its obligations and minimize change, click here.
The federal government and the Monitor?
None of the players with an institutional responsibility to make Westchester comply with the Consent Decree — neither HUD, the U.S. Attorney, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, or the Monitor who serves at the pleasure of HUD — has ever taken any step to get the Court to hold Westchester to account, and, indeed, the government and the Monitor have opposed the Anti-Discrimination Center’s efforts to intervene and to enforce the Decree.