New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced a settlement in a case that grew out of an effort to build a 431-unit residential development on 117 acres in the Orange County community of Chester.
James had alleged that both the town of Chester and Orange County engaged in discriminatory housing practices that were designed to keep out members of the Hasidic Jewish community. In February, Chester and the developers of the project reached agreement to end a federal lawsuit against the town that was asking for $100 million in damages.
Construction of the project is now underway.
The settlement announced by James requires that Orange County and Chester comply with the Fair Housing Act and take preventative measures to ensure equitable housing practices are observed.
In a court filing, James’ office said, “Because of the developer’s religious background and Hasidic communities in neighboring towns, Town and County officials anticipated that families of this faith would move in droves into the new development.”
The document also said, “The Town and County’s animus against the Hasidic community is clear. In a series of publicly-recorded town meetings, officials explicitly referenced their desire to keep out Hasidic families and promised their residents that they would prevent the construction of The Greens at all costs.”
James’ office said the town adopted a Floor to Area Ratio (“FAR”) law, which would force the developer to build extremely small and unmarketable units. It proposed levying an extra tax, limiting the hours the developer could work on construction, and requiring the developer to provide its managing partners’ personal information to local officials. James said the town and county mounted a campaign of permit denials.
“They denied all building permit applications, even when the developer clearly satisfied the permit requirements. The County even tried to undermine a water permit it previously granted to The Greens by asking the New York State Department of Health (‘DOH’) to reconsider its water supply approval,” according to the document from James’ office.
The court filing said that Chester and Orange County tried unsuccessfully to buy out the developer, offering up to $30 million for the property that the developer had purchased for a reported $12 million.
In today’s announcement, James said: “The discriminatory and illegal actions perpetrated by Orange County and the Town of Chester are blatantly antisemitic, and go against the diversity, inclusivity, and tolerance that New York prides itself on.
“Every New Yorker deserves equal opportunities in housing, regardless of gender, race, nationality or their faith,” she said.