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Astorino and HUD Meet, Remain at Odds Over Housing

This article was updated Thursday evening to include a comment from County Executive Robert Astorino.

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - County Executive Robert Astorino met with the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan in Washington D.C. Wednesday morning to discuss his disagreements with HUD’s interpretation of the housing discrimination lawsuit settlement .

Astorino, a Republican, said his administration is still at an impasse with the federal government, saying HUD had has added illegal and economically impossible demands to the 2009 settlement.

The county executive confirmed the new stipulations were coming directly from Donovan during their hour-long meeting and left “miles apart” from the HUD secretary.

“HUD is getting very aggressive," Astorino said. "They’re trying to make Westchester the model for the rest of the country. Them demanding that we destroy local zoning and bankrupt our taxpayers is unacceptable."

The county executive is “optimistic but cautious” about the restoration of about $4 million in community block grants that the federal government pulled from Westchester in response to the county’s noncompliance.

“The ironic thing is that money goes to communities that generally are not inside the settlement. They’re communities that really truly need that money for infrastructure improvements and quality of life improvements and housing. So they’re really cutting their nose to spite their face when they do something like that,” said Astorino.

Donovan and Astorino agreed to consult their staff and regroup next Tuesday in New York City or via a conference call.

Westchester agreed to build 750 units of affordable housing in 31 predominately white communities in an August 2009 lawsuit settlement made with the Anti-Discrimination Center and federal authorities. When Westchester’s fifth required analysis of impediments report was rejected on July 13, Astorino accused HUD of committing “an unprecedented, overreaching” of the federal government.

The county executive said HUD was illegally requesting that Westchester ignore a clause in the New York State Constitution that gives local municipalities the power to set zoning. He also viewed HUD’s suggestion that half of the 750 units have three bedrooms as economically impossible. The new construction requirements would cost the county $94.3 million -- almost twice the $51.6 million cost previously agreed on -- according to Astorino.

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