Village of Great Neck Plaza officials allegedly broke the law by discriminating against affordable-housing applicants based on race, age and disability, a pair of fair-housing nonprofit advocacy groups alleged in a federal lawsuit they filed last week.
The village set discriminatory requirements for residents seeking affordable housing units in a 94-unit rental development called the Maestro, according to the lawsuit filed by Long Island Housing Services (LIHS) and the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC). The suit also names the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency, which provided financial assistance to Plaza Landmark, the developer of the Maestro.
“In general theory, without a neutral policy that is applied evenly, these laws tend to maintain the status quo,” said Erik Heins, the attorney for LIHS. “In this case, the racial proportions of the village and the surrounding peninsula are much less balanced than the rest of the county.”
The village code outlines three categories of prospective residents, giving preference to residents of the village and residents of Great Neck Peninsula, both of which are predominately white, over residents of other areas of Nassau County. Seventy-eight percent of the village population and 74 percent of the peninsula population is non-Hispanic white, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
“Our primary goal is to make sure that these preferences do not prevent minorities from coming in,” said Diane Houk, the attorney for FHJC.
The code also defines eligible residents in all three categories to be either under the age of 40 or over the age of 65. These requirements violate Nassau County law, Houk said.
The lawsuit is based on a joint investigation conducted by the plaintiffs in 2013. The investigation found, in addition to the residency and age requirements, the village would not allow any applicant with disabilities to have a live-in home health care aide who was not related to the applicant.
Attorneys for the village and county were not immediately available for comment.
The lawsuit is the latest in several accusations of housing discrimination on Long Island. U.S. District Judge Arthur D. Spatt ruled in December that a Garden City zoning ordinance discriminated against minority residents. And the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the Town of Oyster Bay in April over alleged discrimination in the town’s affordable housing programs.