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Housing segregation in Nassau a ‘crisis’, report says


Advocacy groups from across the New York metro area called a news conference Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, to  launch the campaign, Long Island's Invisible Walls, to challenge segregation. The group presented a report on housing segregation faced by black and Latino communities on Long Island. Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger

A report released Thursday by Long Island civic leaders and civil rights activists argues that housing segregation in Nassau County has reached a “crisis” point that is forcing people of color to relocate from the suburbs.

The report, by New York Communities for Change, describes Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and legislative majority Republicans as the “foot soldiers” of President Donald Trump and blames them for discriminatory housing practices in areas such as Garden City.

The advocacy group unveiled its findings at a news conference Thursday in the offices of Nassau legislative Democrats in Mineola.

“We want the county executive and the Republican majority to hear that segregation is unacceptable,” said Phyllis Pruit, a member of NYCC. “Blatant housing discrimination is unacceptable and morally unjust.”

County officials disputed the report.

“The county has always complied with federal law, and the federal funds received by the county are allocated to towns and villages for projects which comply with federal requirements,” said John Sarcone, director of Nassau County’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

Legislative Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said “these funds are spent in accordance with federal guidelines, and were unanimously approved by the legislature.”

The report, titled “Invisible Walls,” contends that Nassau Section 8 housing choice voucher holders, primarily blacks and Hispanics, are frequently rejected by area landlords, while the county’s GOP leadership turns a blind eye.

Melissa Figueroa, a Board of Education trustee in Hempstead, argued that zoning laws in wealthy enclaves such as Garden City and Upper Brookville “severely limit” the development of multifamily apartments that would be affordable to many minority families.

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. The village population is 93 percent white, according 2010 U.S. Census statistics.

Garden City’s Village Board members last year unanimously approved a fair housing ordinance stating that the village will use its zoning code and land use regulations to ensure equal housing opportunity.

Village officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

The report also said Nassau receives $16 million annually in federal housing subsidies but too often uses those funds to support projects in primarily white neighborhoods.

“We are talking about real families and real lives that are affected every day,” said Figueroa.

The report called for county officials to strengthen income discrimination legislation; to build affordable, income-tiered housing in all neighborhoods; and to reduce zoning barriers that prevent multifamily housing developments.

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