June 10, 2023
Culture & Community

Jim Crow is Alive in Westchester

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ASORINOIn 2009 a Federal Judge ruled that the county had indeed “utterly failed “to meet its obligations and had misrepresented its desegregation efforts when it applied for more than $50 million in grants.

Westchester has dozens of communities where the black and Hispanic populations are negligible. Instead of working to change that, the county left it up to local officials to decide where affordable housing would be built while turning a blind eye to the exclusionary practices white communities use to keep out minorities and the poor — imposing minimum lot sizes, thwarting high-density development and shifting vacant land to other uses.

Mr. Astorino is using the “local zoning laws”, his “overreaching of government stance”, labeling an organization “social justice” with a dash of anti- Obama by using “cronies in DC” to scare a certain type of voter that believes in his separatist mindset to the poles.

The Journal of Land and Public Utility reported that by 1947, the majority of houses in Westchester, Queens and Nassau counties had covenants prohibiting sales to African Americans.

Andrew Beveridge, a demographer at Queens College in New York who was a expert witness in the Westchester County suit stated “The segregation patterns were laid down early in Westchester County, were certainly set by the 1950s,and they continue today.

How can Rob Astorino defend local zoning laws when these same laws were created to keep African Americans and Latinos out of these same communities? “

Mr. Astorino has used the “local zoning laws”, his “overreaching of government stance”, labeling an organization “social justice” with a dash of anti- Obama by using “cronies in DC” to scare a certain type of voter that believes in his separatist mindset to the poles.

The county submitted analysis to HUD showing that no such “exclusionary” zoning exists. The county’s conclusion was supported by a study from the Pace University Land Law Center.

Finding that Westchester’s zoning analysis was “lacking in substance,” HUD vowed to withhold three years’ worth of block grant funding, totaling $17.4 million until the county submitted a version it found acceptable. In September 2013, HUD permanently pulled $7.4 million of those funds, and the remainder of the block grant money remains in jeopardy.

In the past, Westchester has spent the block grant funds — which must primarily benefit lower-income communities — on street repair, parks and other community improvements.

Faced with the spectacle of losing $17.4 million in federal funds, in the lead up to his 2013 reelection as county executive Astorino dug in with a Wall Street Journal op-ed that began: “Do you think it is a good idea to give the Department of Housing and Urban Development unchecked power to put an apartment building in your neighborhood?”

Does Astorino care about the poor or people of color? From all reports, the HUD/county dispute is hurting poor people in Westchester. The only group that is being hurt by the impounded federal funds is the poor because federal dollars that had been allocated can’t be used to help them.

Astorino also took to the emails using Pearl Quarles, first African-American to serve on Westchester County Legislature, is featured in an ad, criticizing Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Democratic Party calling accountability to Rob Astorino’s stance on a federal housing lawsuit.

“Shame on you Andrew Cuomo. Accusing Rob Astorino of discrimination is unforgivable,” Quarles says in Astorino’s video. “You obviously don’t know what racism is, so don’t disrespect those of us who do.”

This commercial made many African Americans in Westchester very disturbed. Unfortunately, there was no push back from local Black leaders or Pastors but it also shows the influence that Astorino has had with prominent black leaders.

It was also reported that that James Johnson, the monitor overseeing Westchester County’s fair housing settlement with the federal government, has filed a motion with the court to compel County Executive Rob Astorino, to attend a sworn deposition at his office in Manhattan.

Johnson, a lawyer with Debevoise & Plimpton, said officials in Astorino’s office had mischaracterized the county’s obligations under the settlement, the settlement’s objectives, the monitor’s role and positions taken by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“These communications and statements have served to undermine the Settlement and confuse the public,” he wrote. “They represent potential violations of some of the County’s Settlement obligations.”

Astorino has refused the deposition and the silence of the Black leaders in Westchester is deafening. There has been no marches or rallies to address Astorino defiance towards the HUD settlement.

On the People Before Politics Radio Show, Civil Rights Attorney, Michael Sussman said that “he is shocked that Astorino is running for Governor of this state and has opposed legislation in this county and gets support for African American leaders.”

Its reported that just a day after Astorino’s announcement of his bid for governor, the developer of a proposed complex in Chappaqua, which is slated to include 28 of the required affordable units, filed a housing discrimination complaint with HUD alleging that Westchester and town of New Castle sought to block the development after the county’s Board of Legislators turned down funding for the project.

In addition to the discrimination complaint, McLaughlin said he also planned to send a letter to Judge Denise Cote, who is overseeing the county fair housing settlement, to make her aware of the complaint.

“We want to put the court on notice that this type of behavior is still going on in the county,” he said.

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