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Tenants' removal from housing board opposed

A decision to remove two tenant representatives from the Rockville Centre Housing Authority board has upset some residents, but housing authority officials say they had no choice in the matter: Federal authorities deemed invalid the selection of the two residents.

Cynthia Fielder-Boyd and Herbert Coleman, residents of the authority's Old Mill Court building, were dismissed from their board posts on July 3. Fielder-Boyd and nearly 30 residents voiced their opposition to the move at an unofficial housing authority meeting July 17.

"They don't want me on the board because I speak out and I speak up," said Fielder-Boyd, who has lived in Old Mill Court for more than 20 years.

Fielder-Boyd and Coleman were elected commissioners on June 21 by residents of the Old Mill Court complex on North Centre Avenue and the Rockville Manor building, serving seniors and the disabled, on Merrick Road. They were to serve two years along with the five other board members appointed by Rockville Centre Village Mayor Francis X. Murray.

But the Department of Housing and Urban Development notified authority executive director Jamie Morrison it could not approve the election of Fielder-Boyd and Coleman because it did not meet federal requirements. HUD advised the authority to come up with a plan of action within 14 days.

"They had 14 days to deal with it or they would lose funding," said Donna Levine, the authority's Mineola-based landlord-tenant attorney. "It was done as a stop gap so we wouldn't lose funding."

According to HUD regulations, the board membership must include at least one resident who receives direct assistance from the agency, which for Rockville Centre means at least one elected representative from HUD-subsidized Rockville Manor.

A resident board member no longer directly assisted by the agency "may be removed from the . . . board for that cause, where such action is permitted under State or local law." Old Mill Court, considered private, is no longer subsidized by HUD and receives assistance from the Nassau County Section 8 program.

"This is a situation that has never happened before," said Morrison, adding that HUD rejected his suggestion to allow the two tenant representatives to remain until their terms expired on July 31, 2014.

Community activist Katherine Garry cited HUD regulations that call for a tenant representative if a building has more than 300 units in arguing that the Rockville Manor building -- which has 50 units -- is not required to have a representative on the board.

Board chairman Gary Kondor said he decided to dismiss the two members because he did not know whether he could remove just one. Kondor said he hopes to hold a new election once it is determined how the board needs to be restructured.

HUD spokesman Adam Glantz said the agency is reviewing the issue.

"Whatever is legally right is what we are going to do," Kondor said. "If we have to do two elections, we will have to do two elections."

The board creates policies for financial management, approves budgets and major purchases, sets personnel policies and is responsible for writing the authority's long-range plan.

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