The creation of a workforce housing district in Farmingdale shows the village is acting in good faith to follow the terms of the settlement of a federal housing discrimination lawsuit, said the attorney of former tenants who sued the village.
The village board last week approved the new zoning designation for several lots on Fulton Street following a public hearing.
“As part of the settlement they were supposed to make best efforts to recruit developers to develop housing for working class and low-income families,” said Stefan Krieger, the plaintiff’s attorney and a Hofstra law professor. “This is the kind of compliance with the settlement agreement that just shows they are making those good faith efforts.”
Nine former tenants of apartments at 150 Secatogue Ave. sued the village in 2006, alleging that a redevelopment plan targeted the residents, the majority of whom were Hispanic. They were later evicted. The suit alleged the village failed to force the landlord to repair the apartments, which were later sold and redeveloped. The village settled the lawsuit in 2014, without admitting any wrongdoing, and agreed to use its “best efforts” to find developers who would build 54 units of low-income housing over the following 10 years.
Village officials said in a statement posted on the village website before last week’s vote that seven units of affordable housing had been created pursuant to the agreement. Krieger said he has had regular meetings with village officials over the past two years about trying to create the housing envisioned in the agreement.
The zoning change will allow a developer to build about 60 units of housing on lots on Fulton Street, Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said. Not all the units would satisfy the requirement for affordable housing needed for the settlement because income restrictions for workforce housing allow for a wider range of incomes.
Ekstrand said the development of the Fulton Street property will help keep young people in the area.
“Workforce housing will help keep millennials on Long Island,” Ekstrand said.
Reaching 54 units of affordable housing by 2024 will be more difficult, he said: “Mathematically it looks like it will be a very difficult task.”
Former Mayor George Starkie led opposition to the zoning designation, which he said would lead to more developers coming in and demanding to build the same density.
“This is a game changer” and could lead to lawsuits, Starkie said. “A developer will just go and file and Article 78 [lawsuit] and say ‘you gave it to him, you gave it him, you gotta give to me,' ” he said.
Ekstrand said Starkie’s fears are not valid because the new zoning designation limits where the workforce housing can be built.
Levittown-based D&F Development Group has approached the village about building apartments in the new zone, but Ekstrand said they have not filed an application.