Last Wednesday, January 4, Justice Emily Goodman sided with a coalition of plaintiffs from local community organizations who brought a discriminatory suit against the city and sought an injunction, claiming that the development would create dramatic racial disparities and increase existing segregation in the surrounding neighborhoods.
The plaintiffs argued that the Bloomberg administration's plan to build affordable housing at Broadway Triangle, a large parcel of city-owned land, violates the federal Fair Housing Act, state and city human rights laws, and the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause.
In granting the injunction on the community's claims under the Fair Housing Act, Justice Emily Goodman ruled that plaintiffs had demonstrated the likelihood that they would succeed at trial on the merits of the case.
“Today's ruling shows that the city's housing plan for the Broadway Triangle would perpetuate segregation and discrimination in an area that has been heavily segregated for far too long,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman.
The NYCLU partnered with the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition and Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation, serving as co-counsel on the case.
In 2006, the city began the process of developing affordable housing at the site. But community organizations and residents vociferously expressed that there was an exclusionary planning process, which did not include an analysis of how the plan to build affordable housing would affect the area's severe racial segregation.
NYCLU says that the proposed project would have given priority for housing to people who live in a predominantly white section of Williamsburg (Community District 1) to the detriment of a neighboring community that is overwhelmingly black (Community District 3).
While the Bedford-Stuyvesant area is 77 percent black, a demographer found that only three percent of residents in the new housing to be built in the Broadway Triangle would be black.
The plaintiffs in the case argued that as the recipient of federal housing funds, the city was required under federal law to perform a racial analysis. Judge Goodman agreed.
According to the NYCLU, in developing its plan, the city worked exclusively to support an affordable housing proposal by the United Jewish Organizations (UJO) and its partner Ridgewood Brooklyn Senior Citizens Council (RBSCC) – both nonprofit groups.
The UJO serves a particular portion of Brooklyn's Hasidic community and the RBSCC is run by Kings County Democratic leader Assemblyman Vito Lopez.
The lawsuit alleged that Mayor Michael Bloomberg engaged in a political deal with Lopez and his allies at UJO, which excluded every other community group in the affected neighborhoods from the planning process, including most of Latino Williamsburg, all of largely African American Bedford-Stuyvesant, and much of the Hasidic community not connected to UJO.
In December 2009, immediately after a split City Council approved the re-zoning of the 30-acre site, the Coalition sued the city in Manhattan Supreme Court, and stopped implementation of the rezoning.
The city claims that they only changed the zoning to allow for low-rise apartment buildings with predominately three- and four-bedroom units, which would cater to large Hasidic families.
During that same month, Judge Goodman granted the Coalition's motion for a temporary restraining order preventing the city from moving ahead with the development plan. And last spring, the city rejected the plaintiffs' proposal to settle the case.
“There can be no compliance with the Fair Housing Act where defendants never analyzed the impact of the community preference,” Goodman wrote in her latest decision.
The Coalition, as well as NYCLU, hope the judgement will prevent the city from going ahead with other exclusionary development projects.
“This decision proves what a well-organized community can achieve," said Juan Ramos, chair of the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition. “After years of trying, the people were finally given justice and a role in the process that we were left out of.
“Our community is desperate for affordable housing, and we're hopeful we're now a step closer to inclusive and representative housing,” he added.
Brooklyn Legal Services' attorney Marty Needleman says he is thrilled with the ruling.
“We hope the city will seize on the opportunity to move forward with a much more inclusive affordable housing plan through a much more inclusive process,” he said.
The city denies any discrimination and will appeal the decision.
“We respectfully disagree with the judge's decision and will seek an immediate appeal,” said Gabriel Taussig, chief of the Administrative Law Division of the NYC Law Department. “The court mistakenly discounted evidence submitted by the city,” According to a department spokeswoman, the previous temporary restraining order could not be appealed.
“After a two-year long temporary restraining order, we are grateful the judge has finally made a decision which now allows us to refute these outlandish claims before an appellate court,” Taussig added.