WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — Republican candidate Rob Astorino’s campaign for governor may soon be dogged with protests about his housing desegregation dispute with the federal government.
Activist the Rev. Al Sharpton said Thursday that unless Astorino, the Westchester county executive, quickly complies with federal demands, “We will accompany him all over the state … to remind him that his commitment is to live up to what the agreement is.”
Sharpton held a news conference on a sidewalk outside Astorino’s office one day after the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced plans to withhold an additional $5.2 million from the county. It has already reallocated $7.4 million that would have gone to various projects in the county.
HUD and the Department of Justice say Westchester has not complied with the terms of a 2009 agreement that settled a housing desegregation lawsuit.
Specifically, the federal government says Westchester has failed to come up with an acceptable analysis of whether any local zoning laws inhibit fair housing. The county has provided several analyses, always concluding there are no discriminatory zoning laws, a contention HUD has rejected.
HUD gave the county until May 7 to comply. Sharpton said mobilizations would begin then if Astorino did not meet HUD’s demand.
“We know how to get here,” he said, addressing Astorino. “We will follow you everywhere until the money flows for Westchester.”
Astorino said Thursday that Westchester was in full compliance with the settlement. He said the government was “trying to force us to do away with local zoning so federal bureaucrats can dictate housing in Westchester.”
“It’s not worth $5 million in grants, it’s not worth a billion dollars in grants,” Astorino said.
He also accused his opponent, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, of “sending his political people to make these outrageous statements.” Sharpton said he has not spoken with Cuomo about the Westchester housing issue and has not endorsed him. He said he was campaigning for affordable housing, not against Astorino.
Astorino also said he has asked for Cuomo’s help with HUD and has never heard back.
A call to Cuomo’s campaign office was not immediately returned.
In a case involving another New York suburb, a federal judge ordered the heavily white, affluent village of Garden City, on Long Island, to train elected officials and housing employees on fair housing issues and to work to enforce equal housing. The judge had previously ruled that Garden City discriminated against minorities in some of its zoning decisions.
Associated Press writer Frank Eltman contributed to this report from Mineola, N.Y.