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Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Island Park consents to end federal lawsuit
(Page 2 of 3)
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.

The non-monetary mandates grew out of the village’s acknowledgment in the decree that it did discriminate against minorities more than 30 years ago, when the federal government built minority housing in Island Park, but the houses all went to political insiders and locals. According to court papers, as of last month, only three black families lived in Island Park.

The decree requires the village to hire a fair housing administrator, with the candidates interviewed and vetted by both the village and the federal government. In addition, all employees of the village must undergo yearly anti-discrimination training. The court must approve the selection of the administrator.

The administrator will develop an affirmative marketing plan and support African-Americans who want to buy homes in the village or have already done so. In addition, the administrator must identify and develop sources of funding for prospective minority homeowners.

The village has four years to attract an additional 17 African-American homeowners. If it does not, the decree states, the court will assume that the village has not changed its “pattern and practice of discrimination,” and can levy additional fines.

The plaintiff in the original lawsuit, Richard Rodriguez, filed it after The New York Times reported in June 1989 that a Department of Housing and Urban Development audit had accused Island Park officials of rigging the new-home selection to favor politically connected villagers and to keep out minorities. The HUD audit, undertaken in 1984, was kept secret for five years, and reportedly came to light only when plans to use federal money to build a $1 million swimming pool in Island Park brought opposition, and the audit was leaked by a local insider to The Times.

Among those selected for the homes in 1980, according to the HUD report, were a cousin of Sen. Alfonse M. D’Amato and the son of Geraldine McGann, a high-ranking HUD official. Island Park is both D’Amato’s and McGann’s hometown.

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