Farmingdale housing discrimination suit headed to trial
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An anti-discrimination lawsuit alleging village of Farmingdale officials effectively pushed out Latino residents is expected to go to trial in federal court in January, the plaintiffs' lawyer said.
The suit stems from the redevelopment of a property at 150 Secatogue Ave., near the Long Island Rail Road station, into upscale apartments nearly a decade ago. The plaintiffs in the suit filed in 2006 allege village officials played an active role in fostering private development that displaced minorities.
"The redevelopment plan of the village targeted this building for redevelopment and all the buildings in this area in order to rid the community of Latinos," Stefan Krieger, a Hofstra University law professor and lead attorney on the case, said last week.
The case was filed by the Hofstra law clinic on behalf of nine former residents who are Latino. "The village was . . . responding to one constituency of citizens in the village, the white residents, but ignored the concerns, the dignity of the Latino residents."
The case is scheduled to begin in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn on Jan. 13 and expected to last four to six weeks, Krieger said.
The plaintiffs allege that as far back as 1999, the village was talking about seizing the property through eminent domain to redevelop a 54-unit apartment building that housed about 150 Latino residents. The building was in the only predominantly Latino neighborhood in Farmingdale.
It was also an area where day laborers gathered on the street to get work, which plaintiffs said led to an anti-day laborer sentiment and strict code enforcement that became a political issue in the village.
The prospect of eminent domain and the village's failure to enforce numerous housing violations that included vermin infestations and dangerous electrical conditions set the stage for the building to be sold and the tenants evicted, the suit alleges. They also allege that the village fast-tracked the project through the approval process.
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages.
The events that led up to the suit came before Farmingdale's current mayor, Ralph Ekstrand, was elected. Ekstrand said the case is being handled by a law firm hired by Traveler's Insurance.
"We have virtually no say in what's going on," Ekstrand said. "Even if I wanted to settle the suit, it's not up to me; it's up to the insurance company, because our insurance company is footing the bill for any liability."
Ekstrand said he was puzzled by the suit. "I can't even figure out how the village is being sued; it was private property," he said.