Westchester Lawmakers Respond to Submission of County Housing Implementation Plan

2/3/2010 9:33:12 AM



Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers), along with several colleagues, today, responded to the submission of the County’s implementation plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and to the federal monitor overseeing the county’s compliance with last year’s settlement of the fair and affordable housing lawsuit.  The settlement was in response to a lawsuit brought against Westchester County by the Anti-Discrimination Center (ADC), accusing the county of making false statements on federal applications about its efforts to integrate housing.  The approved settlement requires Westchester to spend $50 million over seven years to build 750 fair and affordable housing units, in areas that are overwhelmingly white and affluent.  The agreement, also, calls for a federally-appointed monitor, James Johnson, to assist the county in creating a housing implementation plan to meet these goals. “The Administration has taken a major step towards creating fair and affordable housing throughout our county,” said Board Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers).  “Throughout the transition of county executives and our own internal process of due diligence, the Board has played an essential role in negotiating key elements within the presented implementation plan, as well as meeting the affordable housing needs throughout the County.”


The Board received the settlement agreement signed by then County Executive Spano in August 2009. The Board and its Litigation Subcommittee spent six weeks of due diligence analyzing the settlement agreement and questioning members of the Spano Administration and its counsel regarding the agreement.  As a result of the direct involvement of the Litigation Subcommittee, chaired by Legislator John Nonna (D-Mount Pleasant), members met with lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department, important clarification of the agreement was obtained, confirming the cap on the County’s financial commitment and the standard for incurring any penalties, as well as the County’s relationship with municipalities under the settlement.  “It has been our primary focus ensuring that the members of the Legislature and our residents were fully informed of this process and our obligation to the agreement,” said Legislator Nonna.  “The Administration has taken an important step towards complying with the terms of the settlement today. We look forward to working together with the Administration in accomplishing its goals in cooperation with our towns and villages, the monitor and the federal government. We are mindful and attentive to the concerns of our residents, as to the impact of this settlement.”


Following approval of the settlement by the Board in September 2009, a special subcommittee was appointed to monitor the preparation of the Implementation Plan. Led by Majority Whip Judy Myers (D-Larchmont), Legislators John Nonna (D-Mount Pleasant), Peter Harckham (D-Katonah) and Bill Burton (D-Ossining), this subcommittee monitored the preparation of the Implementation Plan closely, including meeting with the new County Executive’s staff, working on the Implementation Plan and maintained communication with the Monitor to assure him that the Board was actively participating in the process.  “Throughout the transition period, moving from one Administration to the next, the Board ensured the continuity needed within the process,” said Legislator Myers. “It was of the utmost importance that we kept the ball rolling during the transition, as we faced significant challenges in meeting the approved timetable for the plan, given the dynamic of a new Administration and the need to meet the agreed upon deadlines.” The Board’s Housing and Planning Committee plan to meet with Administration officials to continue meeting the benchmarks that were outlined in the plan. "Our committee will have the person in the County Executive’s office who will be responsible to carry out the implementation plan attend a meeting in the near future,” said Legislator Burton. “Our interest is the same as the County Executive: that Westchester complies with the spirit and letter of the settlement agreement while ensuring that fair and affordable housing is constructed or acquired promptly and within the cost limitations we have to live with.”