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Vote on housing rule changes postponed in New Cassel

A plan to remove rules aimed at discouraging illegal housing in New Cassel has been put on hold, amid opposition from Westbury school officials and area residents.

The North Hempstead Town Board adjourned Tuesday night's public hearing until April 1.

The plan, proposed late last year by Councilwoman Viviana Russell, would remove homeowner restrictions specific to New Cassel residents, approved in 2006 and designed to discourage illegal housing.

Though basement apartments are illegal throughout town, the New Cassel restrictions ban residential basements from having more than two fixtures in bathrooms, shower or bathtub fixtures, and entrances from an outside stairwell.

Officials from the Westbury school district, which draws largely from New Cassel, said they worried easing the rules would encourage illegal housing in the area and contribute to overcrowding in the district.

Mary Lagnado, superintendent of Westbury schools, said easing the restrictions has potential to "have a profound impact" on the school district's enrollment.

Enrollment in Westbury schools rose from 4,166 to 4,988, up 19.7 percent, from 2008 to 2013, Lagnado said.

"The overcrowding in the school district has gotten out of proportion," said Catherine Handy, 63, a retired Westbury schoolteacher.

Russell and some residents said the restrictions in New Cassel are unfair, are not in place elsewhere in the Town of North Hempstead, and punish law-abiding residents.

Rodney Caines, the Westbury school board president, described illegal housing as the "third-rail subject."

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