Bronxville Embroiled In Fair Housing Lawsuit With Westchester Residential Opportunities

The Westchester village has been served with a lawsuit regarding a controversial decision regarding new housing.

A lawsuit regarding an ongoing conflict between the Village of Bronxville and the not-for-profit organization Westchester Residential Opportunities (WRO) was filed earlier this month—both parties have been served, and the case has been assigned to Judge Cathy Seibel.

The suit alleges that Bronxville is allowing housing developer Gateway Kensington LLC to build a new condominium complex on Kensington Road that is specifically designed to discourage families with children from moving in. Because the housing development would not be limited to senior citizens—making them “age-targeted” rather than “age-restricted”—the plaintiffs argue that the village is violating the Fair Housing Act.

“The village put into its zoning code a specific category of housing that includes what its purpose is, and its purpose is illegal,” WRO attorney Diane Houk said.

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Public comments from village meetings indicate that some locals think an influx of children would lower the standards of the Bronxville school district, but federal and state laws prohibit housing that is not specifically designated for senior citizens (i.e. “age-restricted”) from discriminating against families with children.

This Bronxville issue first came to the attention of the WRO a year ago when a column by the village’s mayor, Mary Marvin, stated that the housing development would be designed to have a minimal impact on school population. The site was originally intended to be a senior housing development, but those plans fell through when the original developer went bankrupt.

WRO found the “age-targeted” plan especially problematic because, according to WRO Fair Housing Director Marlene Zarfes, “we get a lot of complaints that people have trouble finding housing when they have children.” Zarfes said that common complaints on the private market include landlords being hesitant to rent to families with babies or telling couples that they have too many children.

WRO Executive Director Geoffrey Anderson said that the nonprofit is “actively looking to see if anyone is discriminating against families.”

The land where the development will be built is being prepared for construction, though no units have been marketed or sold.

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Marvin has declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but has responded to the lawsuit.

“Bronxville is nothing if not a community of families and children,” Marvin told The Journal News. “Families with children are certainly welcomed in the Kensington Road development.”

Houk believes it is too early to make predictions about the outcome of this case, but said she was hopeful that WRO would be able to ensure that site plans are changed before units enter the market.

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