A judge ordered Westchester County on Wednesday to speed up its responses to federal requests to comply with a court order that settled a 2009 housing segregation lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan agreed with a request from the federal government to require the county to make any objections within five days so that the sides can meet and confer before forwarding any disputes to a magistrate judge for a speedy ruling.
"The record is clear enough that there has been a failure, a breakdown in the process to date," Cote said at a hearing.
Two months ago, Cote ruled that the county was in violation of the landmark 2009 settlement which required the county to build 750 affordable housing units in predominately white, affluent communities.
The hearing dealt with mostly procedural matters, according to spokesmen for the county and U.S. attorney's office. Lawyers for the county agreed to provide federal monitor James Johnson with additional documents and information related to an ongoing review of the county's zoning laws over the next several weeks, among other resolutions.
"Frankly, we remain surprised that this required a court hearing," said Ned McCormack, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino's spokesman.
On Friday, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara filed documents asking a federal judge to force the county to turn over documents related to the county's review of discriminatory housing practices by towns and villages.
The review is a key provision of settlement; county officials contend that they are fulfilling the terms but have found no evidence of discriminatory zoning regulations.
The U.S. attorney's request was made on behalf of Johnson, the federal monitor appointed to oversee the settlement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Johnson filed separate court documents late Friday essentially rejecting the county's zoning review for a second time.
In May, Johnson rejected the county's review and asked Astorino to turn over documents and correspondence from the assessment and "make available" county employees as well as any private consultants who worked on it.
The county provided Johnson with additional documentation on July 6 -- including analysis by John Nolon, a Pace law professor and land use expert -- suggesting that there were no discriminatory zoning practices.
Johnson has rejected Westchester's response and asked the feds to "compel" the county to comply.
In May, Cote ruled that the county was in violation of the settlement -- brokered by former County Executive Andy Spano -- because of Astorino's decision last year to veto legislation that would have required landlords in the county to accept Section 8 government vouchers for rent payments. Astorino has appealed that ruling.
HUD has withheld more than $12 million in affordable housing funds in response to the dispute.
With The Associated Press