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Fair housing activists pitch tents in Garden City

Members of New York Communities for Change protested the continued lack of affordable housing in Garden City and Nassau County on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. Some planned to make their point by sleeping in tents Thursday and Friday near Washington Avenue and 11th Street in Garden City. (Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman)

About 20 people are sleeping in tents Thursday and Friday night in protest of what they called continued housing discrimination in the Village of Garden City.

Members of the New York Communities for Change from Nassau and Suffolk counties pitched tents Thursday night on a grassy walkway near the corner of Washington Avenue and 11th Street. One of the group’s leader said NYCC is reclaiming this spot because it’s at the center of how Garden City and Nassau County are refusing to offer affordable housing.

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. Village officials were seeking to change the zoning category on the parcel of land where NYCC has set up tents.

Since that ruling, NYCC’s co-chair Diane Goins said Nassau County has decided to use the parcel to build a new courthouse. However, the county hasn’t completed construction on the building.

“They’re dragging their feet on this property,” Goins said about the camp site Thursday night. “I don’t know if it’s the developer that’s holding it up or the county, but I want them to tear this thing down and give us our multifamily housing.”

Goins said her group is also protesting because they believe Garden City officials haven’t trained village staff about fair housing rules or earmarked 10 percent of new housing complexes as affordable units — both mandated by the 2013 ruling.

Garden City Mayor Brian Daughney did not return a request for comment Thursday. However, village officials have said they did not believe they purposely discriminated against anyone in their housing practices.

“The village continues to believe that it did not act with discriminatory intent when it enacted a zoning change,” a village official told Newsday in 2014.

The village in June 2014 approved a fair housing policy that wasn’t adopted into law until February 2016. The law 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.

Garden City is 94 percent white, according to 2015 U.S. Census Bureau data.

NYCC is a nonprofit organization with 3,500 members who advocate for social justice issues and has eight chapters across New York, two on Long Island.

Some of its members spent Thursday night marching across Garden City, down Franklin Avenue and eventually to Village Hall. The group passed out flyers to people enjoying an outdoor concert on Stewart Avenue.

NYCC member Mary Crosson said she would sleep most of the night in the tents Thursday. The Hempstead resident said she’s joining the demonstration because having a village that’s predominantly white sends a bad message to future generations of Long Islanders, particularly those who are black or Hispanic.

“If I have to sleep out here every night and march every day, I will,” Crosson said. “I’m not doing this for me; I’m doing this for my children and my grandchildren.”


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