ADC Statement on November 19th Magistrate Judge decision

Westchester Case

November 19, 2015 — In a decision released today, a federal Magistrate Judge has sustained Westchester’s objections to the Monitor’s finding that a single project (Chappaqua Station) had not progressed far enough in terms of certain financing to “count” towards the minimum of 750 units of affordable housing required to be created under the consent decree. The Magistrate also found that the U.S. Attorney had not presented enough evidence to show that Westchester should be held in contempt with respect to the inadequacy of its efforts to facilitate the project.

Note: Even though the Monitor had found in an earlier report that the County “undertook no direct activities to address zoning impediments in 2014” and had suggested that that failure to act in the face of excessive zoning restrictions in some towns and villages might constitute a violation of Westchester’s obligations under paragraph 7(j) of the decree, neither the Monitor or the U.S. Attorney ever followed up and sought to have the County held in contempt on this basis. Thus, the Magistrate’s decision related only to the Chappaqua Station project and has no bearing on Westchester’s across-the-board policy of refusing to take action to force municipalities to give up excessively restrictive zoning, action that the County was required to acknowledge in the consent decree it had the authority and responsibility to take.

ADC released the following statement:

The U.S. Attorney and the Monitor today reaped the fruit of their strategy of refusing to identify to the Court the full scope of Westchester’s refusal to meet its clear and unambiguous obligations under the consent decree to force towns and villages to abandon excessively restrictive zoning. They could have focused on the fact that Westchester has for years explicitly refused to litigate against any of the many municipalities who maintain exclusionary zoning.  Westchester, after all, was forced to acknowledge in the decree its authority and responsibility to take such action. Instead, the U.S. Attorney looked only at the side issue of the Chappaqua Station project (a project that would isolate residents away from existing, white, residential Chappaqua neighborhoods in housing squeezed — literally — between the railroad tracks and the Saw Mill River Parkway).

Why didn’t the U.S. Attorney and the Monitor make the easy argument that New Castle zoning perpetuates segregation and that Westchester has refused to act against it? Because they have already undermined their position by pretending that there is less exclusionary zoning than actually exists in the County (a central part of the strategy to claim “progress” where none exists) and because standing behind a consent decree that requires Westchester to undo the zoning barriers maintained by so many segregated Westchester municipalities remains politically unpalatable to them.