WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- For County Executive Robert Astorino, his battles with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), are about defending Westchester zoning rights.
In an interview last week with The Daily Voice, Astorino, who is running for a second term, discussed his approach with HUD in the wake of a 2009 anti-discrimination settlement.
The settlement requires that by 2016, Westchester County must develop 750 units of fair and affordable housing in 31 municipalities that have been deemed eligible. The county was given $51.6 million in federal funds to do so.
Astorino is running against Democratic candidate Noam Bramson, the mayor of New Rochelle. Bramson and other Democrats have criticized Astorino's dealing with HUD.
The settlement was approved before Astorino took office, and he has been battling with HUD over the terms of the settlement ever since. HUD has questioned the zoning code of some municipalities and has battled with Astorino over source of income legislation, with many of their fights ending up in court.
"I'll stand with our communities," Astorino said. "They’re going to sue our communities and go and make sure that our communities take away from their zoning codes anything that would limit height; densities; bedrooms in developments."
Astorino said HUD is claiming discrimination and segregation exists in Westchester without an ounce of proof.
"We’ve been building affordable housing on our own for many decades without a gun to our head and will continue to do that," Astorino said. "Why do we have DC dictate who lives where? I will defend the rights of the community and not yield to the bullying of federal government."
Bramson's campaign responded claiming that Astorino is creating a fantasy threat that does not exist.
"His approach to HUD has been a self-evident disaster," Barry Caro, a spokesman for Bramson said. "There have been tens of millions in needless fines, stalled progress on the housing settlement and Westchester is being threatened with millions more in fines."
Caro said HUD is not even considering considering suing any Westchester municipalities to change their zoning codes.
"None of what Astorino says is accurate," Caro said. "Not a word of it is remotely true."
Caro said collaborative leadership is needed, with all sides sitting at the table.
"That's the approach Noam Bramson would take," Caro said. "Let's hammer out the few issues that are still up for debate. This is a solvable question. We need to get beyond the trench warfare and start planning better, not waging an ideological war against the federal government."