GARDEN CITY, NY –In 2014, the Village of Garden City settled a 14-year long housing discrimination lawsuit, brought by New York Communities for Change (NYCC). The lawsuit forced the Village to pay $5.3 million dollars in legal fees and relief, as well as to implement affordable housing requirements for all future building structures.
Garden City has been a segregated community since it was founded in 1869, even now, in the 2010 census it was reported that the population of the village was about 90 percent white and only 10 percent minority. In 2015, the Long Island Workforce Housing Act was passed to make fair and affordable housing more accessible to Long Island residents by requiring a minimum of 10 percent of the proposed housing structure units be set aside as low-income or affordable workforce housing.
And yet, the current population of the Village remains 90 percent white and 10 percent minority.
Last month the Southern Land Company, a development company, proposed building 150-unit apartments at 555 Stewart Avenue, 10 percent of which will be designated affordable housing rental units for low income families. Giuseppe Giovanniello, the superintendent of building for Garden City, said that if the structure is approved it will be four stories and will include one and two bedroom apartments.
The Long Island Community Foundation helped to fund NYCC’s lawsuit against the village. Sol Marie Jones, senior program officer for the organization, said that the region is “skewed by pockets of wealth. A better law is needed, she said, “to reflect the different levels of income that are more realistic for the working families in our region.” Jones explained that the concept of affordable housing is also misunderstood and needs to be redefined.
“Section 8 is a very important government program that helps people that need it to have access to safe and quality housing…but that’s only one portion of affordable housing. Affordable housing is where you don’t have to spend more than 35 percent of your income on housing.”
According to a 2013 study published by the Long Island Community Foundation “rents have increased by 17 percent since 2000 while incomes declined by two percent.” The Foundation also found that about “four in 10 Long Island households today spend 35 percent of their income on housing costs,” which is not affordable for most incomes on Long Island.
William Bailey, the Long Island area organizer for New York Communities for Change, said that he camped out for three nights in 2017 to protest housing segregation in Garden City.
“We did another tent city,” said Bailey, “and the amount of racism that I was hit with…people were screaming ‘go Trump’ as if that was supposed to phase me. They hit us with the n-bombs, f-bombs. A lot of them kept telling us go get a job.”
Bailey, an African American college graduate, said that despite the fact that he’s employed, even he struggles with finding affordable housing on Long Island, not only because of the price but also because of his race. “They use terms like ‘overcrowding’,” he said. Meaning, “we don’t want people of color to be living in our community.”
“They need to wake up and come out of whatever era they’re in and join 2019,” agreed Bailey’s supervisor and the director of the Long Island area for NYCC, Lucas Sanchez. “There is land that can be developed. They just need to get past the racism and build affordable housing. It’s very simple.”
By 2030, Long Island is projected to be majority minority, that’s 10 years earlier than any other area in the country.
“It’s better today than it was yesterday, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done,” said Jones.
Representatives for the Village of Garden City Planning Commission and the Zoning Board for Appeals declined to comment.