The head of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development said his agency is reviewing Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino’s promise to sign “source of income” legislation and whether it complies with a 2009 housing settlement.
Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan was at the state Capitol on Friday to announce his approval of New York’s plan to distribute $1.7 billion in federal block grants to areas of the state hit hard by major storms over the past two years.
When asked about the battle over the Westchester County housing settlement, Donovan said his agency is determining whether Astorino’s actions Wednesday put the county in compliance with the 2009 settlement and an appeals court ruling this month. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara had threatened to hold Astorino and the county in contempt of the court, which had ruled earlier this month that Astorino violated the settlement by vetoing legislation that would have prohibited landlords from turning away tenants paying rent with government funds.
“We are in the process of evaluating that submission at this point and we will move as quickly as we possibly can to determine whether they’ve met their obligations,” Donovan said. “But let’s be clear: This is a very simple matter. The county agreed in writing as a result of a court action to a number of very clear steps. Saying you’re going to support legislation and then vetoing it is a clear violation of that agreement.”
Westchester County officials went to court Friday in an effort to block Housing and Urban Development from redistributing $7.4 million in 2011 block grants that had been slated for the county. A judge denied the county’s request for a temporary restraining order, calling it premature.
“This is not a complex matter,” Donovan told reporters. “This is about following the law and if the submission that we got yesterday follows the law, then the Community Development Block Grant money will start flowing again to the citizens of the county. But it is up to the county executive to follow the law.”
On Wednesday, Astorino spokesman Ned McCormack told The Journal News that the county believes “it is in compliance with the settlement, and (Wednesday’s) letter is further evidence that the county is following the orders of the court.