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Astorino defies court order on HUD lawsuit

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino speaks at a

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino speaks at a news conference in this file photo. (June 13, 2012) Photo Credit: Susan Stava

The ongoing battle to develop more affordable housing in Westchester hit another major snag Friday as County Executive Rob Astorino continued to defy a court order.

A federal court judge had given the county until Friday to file plans showing how the county would go about passing a new law that would prevent landlords from discriminating against tenants who pay their rent with disability checks or Section 8 government subsidies.

But instead, Astorino's office waited until a few minutes before 5 p.m. to email a two-page letter to federal monitor James Johnson, whose office confirmed the email but declined further comment.

The document, signed by Deputy County Executive Kevin Plunkett, said that the county planned to hold off on doing anything further on the issue until an appeals court rules on the matter -- a response that could open the county up to sanctions.

The U.S. attorney's office, which said last week that the county was risking punishment, declined to comment.

Astorino has been feuding with the federal government and county legislature over the 2009 agreement that settled a housing segregation lawsuit originally filed by the Manhattan-based Anti-Discrimination Center.

While the county is on track to bring 750 new affordable housing units onto the market by 2019, Astorino vetoed the County Legislature's bill to protect tenants from landlord discrimination based on their sources of income. So far, 72 units have been added, with another 207 actively in the works.

Astorino has consistently objected to passing the new law, arguing that the matter had been adequately addressed by his predecessor, Democrat Andy Spano, who forged the original settlement.

With The Associated Press

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