The residents of Island Park have dodged a $5.4 million bullet that would have cost every homeowner in the village more than $1,130, thanks to a federal consent decree that will dramatically reduce the fine, which was imposed on the village in 1995 in connection to a lawsuit alleging housing discrimination.
The consent decree was signed on Nov. 8 by Village Attorney Paul Millus and U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.
There are still two steps that must be taken before the decree is official, however. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals must remand the case back to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, and U.S. District Judge I. Leo Glasser must sign off on the agreement.
Millus said this week that those steps should be completed shortly.
The agreement will allow Island Park to end the lawsuit by paying the federal government a total of $1.96 million, most of which would be earmarked for efforts to ensure that the village aggressively seeks minority homeowners. The payment represents nearly half of the village’s entire 2014 budget of $4.1 million.
The settlement includes $568,000 in fines, and up to $300,000 to hire a new village official who would establish a fair-housing program designed to attract 17 new African-American homeowners to Island Park over the next four years. The rest of the money would fund the program.
The decree allows the village four years to pay off the judgment, beginning in 2017, but requires that nearly $1 million be divided among three escrow accounts within 60 days of the court’s approval.
Millus told the Herald that the agreement is a great deal for the village and its taxpayers. “The sins of the fathers need to be resolved,” he said. “We don’t have to pay the $5.4 million and the 9 percent interest each year that attaches to the judgment, and the insurance company — National Casualty Company — will pay $900,000. This is a fresh start for the village, and it’s as much about the future as it is the past. Enforcing the entire judgment would have destroyed the village. “We would have had to say, ‘Take it and run it yourself.’ You can’t leave a village vulnerable like that."