WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is a former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, also known as HUD.
And he's a Westchester resident, living less than 10 miles from his Republican challenger, County Executive Rob Astorino of Hawthorne. Asked today by Albany reporters about the details of an ongoing, complex 2009 HUD fair housing case against his home county, the governor from New Castle evaded messy details.
Instead, Cuomo blamed Astorino for failing to comply with the housing settlement. Cuomo failed to mention that a federal monitor has found 37 of 43 Westchester municipalities do not have zoning practices that exclude minorities from living there. Or that Westchester has built more than 400 of 750 affordable housing units -- ahead of the settlement schedule.
Cuomo also did not mention the settlement occurred before Astorino took office in 2010. Meanwhile, HUD has withheld $22 million in community development grants to Westchester towns and villages -- including those in compliance with fair housing standards -- as Astorino haggles over details of the federal agreement.
Cuomo, appointed to HUD by former President Clinton, said, "I have no reason to disagree with the federal findings. I used to bring these cases as HUD secretary. There’s a science to it, and they are saying that when you look at the numbers and the statistics, that Westchester County is violating the fair housing law. . . which is very, very serious.”
Asked about Astorino’s view that the settlement may reduce local control over land-use decisions, Cuomo said:: “News bulletin: Federal law applies in localities. ... I have no reason to disagree with the federal findings."
The first attack ads Democrats ran against Astorino, in April, focused on the HUD case. But the original 2006 lawsuit against Westchester was filed against then-County Executive Andrew Spano, a Democrat.
In a campaign statement today, Astorino said: "Andrew Cuomo ought to be ashamed of himself. He also needs to explain what he's doing living in a community that he claims is discriminatory."
"How dare Andrew Cuomo disparage Westchester families with a blatantly false and inflammatory charge,'' Astorino said. "Andrew Cuomo owes the families of Westchester an immediate apology. . . . Anyone can live anywhere they can afford in this county, just as in other county."
"Westchester County is the fourth most diverse county in New York state, tied with Manhattan, and we welcome that diversity," Astorino said.
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