Garden City Village Board members unanimously approved a fair housing ordinance Tuesday night after a federal judge found the village had discriminated against minorities.
Board members voted to adopt the village’s fair housing policy as local law, to follow the federal Fair Housing Act, which was first passed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
The ordinance also states that the village will use its zoning code and land use regulations to ensure equal housing opportunity.
It prohibits the village from using its housing, zoning and land use to discriminate against anyone based on race, age, religion, sex, family status or disability.
A federal judge ruled in December 2013 that Garden City violated the federal Fair Housing Act in 2004 when it enacted a zoning ordinance to deny multifamily housing, targeting minorities. The village population is 93 percent white, according 2010 U.S. Census statistics.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York upheld the ruling in the lawsuit brought by the New York Communities for Change organization and ordered the village to end discriminatory zoning practices.
Village officials at the time denied that residents were being discriminated against and are appealing the court’s ruling. The village passed a Fair Housing Policy resolution in June 2014 and announced the ordinance this week to follow the court’s order.
Village officials said the ordinance would make the policy part of the village code, but had not been required by the federal court. Village trustees said the ordinance adhering to the local fair housing law “further demonstrates the village’s commitment to good faith compliance.”
“In order to further memorialize its compliance with that judicial decree, the board of trustees hereby finds and concludes that it would be reasonable and appropriate to adopt said policy by a more formal legislative act in the form of this local law,” the measure states.
Garden City Mayor Nicholas Episcopia would not say what prompted this week’s ordinance or how it differed from the village’s current fair housing policy. He said he couldn’t comment further because the village is still appealing the court’s decision.
“It’s something we want to do. I think it says whatever it says,” Episcopia said. “The Village of Garden City believes it is in full compliance of the law and recent judgment of the federal court.”
In June 2014, the Village of Garden City board of trustees enacted a Fair Housing Policy. The policy was passed unanimously by a resolution of the trustees.
Housing rights supporters gathered Tuesday morning at Garden City Village Hall to laud the board for finally voting on the measure, but asked the board to adopt an additional declaration by the Fair Housing Compliance Officer to enforce the policy.
“Garden City was actively discriminating against people of color who wanted to live in a different community. Today, Garden City will enact a local law for fair housing,” said Lucas Sanchez, with New York Communities for Change. “We see that as a victory and celebrate the village in joining the 21st century.”
Hempstead Hispanic Civic Association director George Siberon said residents would be vigilant to ensure homes and apartments were available to everyone.
“Imagine having to take out a lawsuit so people can live somewhere,” Siberon said. “This is a long time coming. We’re finally coming into this century and beginning to unravel discriminatory practices of the village. All any decent people want is a place to live. We shouldn’t be discriminated against based on what we look like.”