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EVANS v. LYNN

May 22, 1974

Rachel EVANS et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
James T. LYNN, in his capacity as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, et al., Defendants


Pollack, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: POLLACK

POLLACK, District Judge.

Plaintiffs, low-income minority residents of Westchester County, have moved for a declaration of class action status, Fed. R. Civ. P. 23, and for a preliminary injunction, Rule 65, to restrain two federal agencies *fn1" from supplying funds under grants that have been approved to the Town of New Castle for the construction of sewer facilities and the clearance of a swamp area for recreational use. In connection therewith, plaintiffs challenge the Tri-State Regional Planning Commission's tacit approval of the grants in question.

 Plaintiffs contend that all three agencies abdicated their responsibilities under the Civil Rights Acts *fn2" and the regulations promulgated thereunder in granting federal funds to New Castle.

 All defendants oppose the motion for class declaration and have cross-moved to dismiss the suit. The Town of New Castle has applied for leave to intervene herein and to support the cross-application for dismissal.

 Disbursement of the funds granted has been withheld pending determination of the claims presented herein.

 Since it is the decision of the Court that the plaintiffs lack standing to bring this suit the plaintiffs' motions must be denied and the defendants' and the intervenor's motions must be granted and the complaint dismissed for the reasons which follow.

 The History of the Grants.

 In 1969, New Castle requested federal aid from HUD for the installation of a sewer system in Chappaqua, New York, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3102. That section authorized the agency to make matching grants to local communities for the development of, inter alia, basic public sewer facilities. Similar federal funds were requested pursuant to 16 U.S.C. § 460l-8 from the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Outdoor Recreation ("BOR") in 1972 to aid the development of a public park and recreation area in what is known now as Turner Swamp. *fn3" Both agencies, after due consideration and investigation into the proposals, agreed to provide the requested funds. Subsequently, the Suburban Action Institute (counsel for plaintiffs herein) filed informal complaints with both agencies protesting the respective grants. These complaints in effect raised the same objections which plaintiffs have now brought before this Court, namely, that the approval of the grants would deny members of racial minorities and low-income persons equal opportunity to benefit from the grants, and were thus violative of federal civil rights laws due to New Castle's exclusionary and discriminatory policies. In both instances, agency counsel replied that the matter had been reviewed and that there was no legal basis for halting the grants.

 Sometime after New Castle's applications were filed with them, both HUD and BOR forwarded the applications to the regional planning commission (defendant Tri-State) for comment, pursuant to federal regulations. Tri-State replied to both agencies that it would not review the applications as they were "non-regional" in significance and thus outside its jurisdiction.

 Urging that the grants are violative of the "civil rights laws and policies", plaintiffs then brought the instant action for injunctive and other relief to prevent the flow of the federal funds to New Castle.

 On the return of the motions before the Court a preliminary discussion with counsel indicated that it would aid any evidentiary hearing that might be required if the government were to file and serve copies of the administrative records of these grants and permit the plaintiffs to take depositions of officials and others involved in the consideration of the grants. At a later date the intervenor also requested an opportunity to examine the plaintiffs. Discovery to both sides was granted accordingly.

 The plaintiffs have thus been accorded a wide opportunity to make a factual investigation of the New Castle applications and the civil rights enforcement procedures utilized by the federal defendants and the defendants have had an opportunity to elicit the facts concerning the interest of the plaintiffs. The legal issue of standing raised by the motions is now cast in sharp relief against this well-developed factual background.

 The Town of New Castle.

 New Castle is predominantly white and a well-to-do enclave. Almost 90% of New Castle is zoned for single-family, residential development on parcels of more than one acre; the median value of single-family homes in New Castle in 1970 was in excess of $50,000. Median family income in New Castle in 1970 was $22,005 compared with $11,349 in Westchester as a whole. Westchester County's population is approximately ten percent non-white. The Town of New Castle is only 1.3% non-white. New Castle has been involved in a recent, well-publicized skirmish with the New York State Urban Development Corporation. In that contest, New Castle successfully thwarted the state agency's attempt to ...


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