The cost of intransigence is hitting home in Westchester County, with the loss of $7.5 million in federal housing aid scheduled for Aug. 29.
The administration of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, which has refused to abide by federal demands involved in the settlement of the 2006 lawsuit over fair housing, on Tuesday made a last-ditch effort to save the funding.
County Attorney Robert Meehan Tuesday sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, hoping to halt the action threatened by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
HUD has informed the county, wrote Meehan, “that approximately $7.5 million in CPD funds, which are at the heart of the instant dispute, will be permanently and irrevocably reallocated and dispersed to another municipal entity as early as August 29, 2013.”
US District Judge Denise Cote last week ruled that HUD had discretion to withhold the grants as part of the Fair Housing settlement.
The county’s bid to overturn Cote’s ruling was met with criticism by Barry Caro, spokesman for New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson’s campaign for county executive. Bramson has urged Astorino to drop his incendiary rhetoric regarding the Fair Housing settlement, and work collaboratively with HUD on an analysis of restrictive zoning codes in seven Westchester communities.
HUD had also required the county to adopt a strategy written by federal officials to combat exclusionary zoning, because Westchester had refused develop its own plan.
Astorino has refused, claiming that the federal government wanted to gut local zoning.
“On this issue, Astorino has painted himself into a corner with his apocalyptic rhetoric,” Caro said. “Westchester is now getting to see what his position means to our pocketbooks, and it’s not good.”
Municipalities and nonprofit housing groups in Greenburgh, Port Chester, and Peekskill will lose the funding, which was allocated for the federal 2011 fiscal year. An additional $10 million from subsequent years has also been frozen, pending county action.
“It’s Astorino’s calculation,” said Caro. “He knows that he needs to gin up this anger toward the federal government for his re-election. But the threats he is protecting us from exist only in his imagination.”
Calls to Astorino’s office were referred to campaign spokesman Bill O’Reilly. He did not return a phone message left Tuesday afternoon.