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Sunday, December 21, 2014
Island Park consents to end federal lawsuit
Must set up and pay for minority housing program
Howard Schwach/Herald
Houses on D’Amato Drive in Island Park were meant for minority homeowners, but went instead to local insiders, sparking a decades-long lawsuit that has ended with a consent agreement between the village and the federal government.

Facing fines of $5.4 million in a decades-old discrimination lawsuit, the Village of Island Park agreed on Nov. 8 to a consent decree that would allow it to end the lawsuit by paying the federal government a total of $1.96 million, most of which would ensure that the village aggressively seeks minority homeowners.

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 to bring 17 new African-American homeowners to the village over the next four years. The rest of the money would fund an outreach program.

U.S. District Judge I. Leo Glasser has yet to approve the decree, but it was approved last month by Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Paul Millus, the village attorney. Officials say that the judge’s approval in a case like this is pro forma.

The decree allows the village four years to pay off the judgment, but requires that a payment of nearly $1 million be divided among three escrow accounts within 60 days of when Glasser signs the agreement. Then, beginning in June 2017, Island Park would pay $21,000 per month for 78 months to satisfy the remainder of the judgment.

According to documents obtained by the Herald, the government allowed the village to cut its losses because of “substantial damage and loss as a result of Superstorm Sandy.”

“The village has provided information that its governmental infrastructure was all but destroyed and that businesses suffered losses in excess of $54 million,” Lynch wrote in a letter agreeing to the decree. “According to the village, its property, library and school district sustained additional damages of $210 million. Under those circumstances, there are just and valid reasons for this Court to grant the parties the relief and approve the consent decree, which modifies the judgment to the amount of money the village would be obligated to pay but require the village to provide additional non-monetary relief.”

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