Westchester County is trying once again to block the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from redistributing $7.5 million in grants originally intended for county municipalities and nonprofits.
In a motion filed Tuesday, the county is now asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent HUD from dispersing the money to any entity other than Westchester.
HUD started the process of reallocating the community development grants from 2011 this month after Westchester failed to complete an analysis of local zoning that HUD will accept. Both sides have recently disputed the matter in court, part of a long struggle between the federal government and administration of County Executive Rob Astorino over the 2009 fair-housing settlement.
A U.S. district judge ruled last week that the law gives HUD the discretion to accept or reject the county’s certification that it will promote fair housing. Westchester is appealing that decision.
“There’s no choice but for the county to try this approach,” Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins said. “It’s unfortunate the Astorino administration didn’t use the same level of effort to work with HUD as it is now using to fight them in court. It’s not going to work but we have no other option.”
A spokesperson for Astorino was not immediately available for comment.
HUD had given Westchester an Aug. 15 deadline to change its position that zoning in no Westchester town or village excludes racial and ethnic minorities. But Astorino, who has repeatedly clashed with HUD over the settlement, refused to give the department the promises it was looking for.
HUD has indicated the money could be redistributed as early as Aug. 29 in order to avoid sending it back to the U.S. Treasury Department. The grants were expected to fund a combination of road and infrastructure improvements, affordable housing initiatives and other projects in Westchester.
The ongoing dispute could also cost county municipalities and nonprofits more than $10 million in grants from 2012 and 2013, but that money won’t expire until next year and 2015.
“We never should have gotten to this point where funding is being taken away,” Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster told The Journal News. “The sad thing is, in Westchester, it’s the small cities and villages who were not part of the housing settlement agreement that are being affected.”
Photo: Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino