The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nickerson, District Judge.
Plaintiffs brought this action for, among other things, an
order (a) enjoining any further construction or planning for
construction on certain land known as Site 4 in Williamsburg
Urban Renewal Area I (Area I), and (b) rescinding the sale of
the land by the City of New York (the City).
Plaintiffs are Southside Fair Housing Committee (the Housing
Committee) and eighteen persons describing themselves as
Hispanics or Latinos and African-Americans. The pertinent
defendants are the City, the New York City Department of
Housing Preservation and Development (the Development
Department), and the United Talmudical Academy, Torah V'Yirah,
Inc., the educational arm of an Hasidic congregation called
Congregation Yetev Lev D'Satmar. This memorandum will refer to
these two entities jointly as "the Academy."
On plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction the court
took evidence, and, at the request of the parties,
consolidates the hearings on the motion with the trial on the
Plaintiffs ask the court to prevent the Academy from further
developing a synagogue, a yeshiva, and faculty housing on Site
4 sold to the Academy by the City, and to set aside the sale.
Plaintiffs say that the sale violated their rights under the
First and Fourteenth Amendments, and that in making it the
City intended both to create an Hasidic "enclave" to the
detriment of the Hispanic community and to support the Satmar
Many of the critical evidentiary facts are undisputed.
In 1967 the City, along with the federal and state
governments, created Area I, consisting of about nineteen city
blocks in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The City condemned and
cleared deteriorated property and provided for the development
of the area under an Urban Renewal Plan (the Plan).
Before clearance both Hispanics and Jews, both Orthodox and
Hasidic, lived in Area I. The residents immediately to the
north of Area I were and still are largely Hispanic. Those
living to the east were and are for the most part Hasidic or
Site 4 occupies about one square block. Before 1967 it
contained low-rise private housing, some commercial
businesses, at least two synagogues, one run by the Academy,
ritual baths, and a yeshiva. The residents were both Hispanic
and Jewish, Orthodox and Hasidic.
The present population of Area I is mixed. There are four
large, high-rise subsidized housing developments, each with
occupants of mixed ethnic composition, Independence Towers,
Taylor-Wythe Houses, Clemente Plaza, and Bedford Gardens. Two
smaller units of market rate housing,
PAZ-Ross Houses and Bedford Rehabs, were purchased almost
exclusively by Orthodox and Hasidic Jews. In addition, certain
other parcels are under development as condominiums, known as
Brooklyn Villas, by UJO, an organization with some overlap in
membership with the Academy. The Brooklyn Villas matter is
also a part of the case and has been tentatively settled by
The percentages of white and non-white occupancy of housing
units in the subsidized housing range from 54% non-white and
46%, white in Clemente Plaza to 68% white and 32% non-white in
Independence Towers. In Area I whites occupy 1596 housing
units and minority members 935.
To the north of Area I is another urban renewal area,
Williamsburg Urban Renewal Area II (Area II), created in 1984
to rehabilitate and develop subsidized, low income housing.
Area II has mainly older, low-rise apartment buildings,
occupied chiefly by Hispanics.
During the 1970s the City chose urban renewal sponsors and
developers on a "sole source" basis. The Development
Department staff consulted with organizations and people in
the local community, including members of the local Community
Boards, and sought out persons established in the community
who had succeeded in development projects. The tentative
designation of a developer was reviewed by the local Community
Board and the City Planning Commission (the Planning
Commission). The final designation was made by the City Board
Originally the City considered Site 4, as well as other
sites in Area I, for use as a park. However, by the early
1970s the Development Department started to discuss other
so-called "institutional" uses for Site 4. The Academy
approached the Development Department to construct on the site
a nursing home, a yeshiva, and a medical facility.
In July 1977 the Development Department proposed subdividing
the site into Sites 4A, 4B, and 4C and tentatively designated
the Academy as the developer of the site.
In May of 1978 the Development Department submitted the
Academy's proposals for Sites 4A, 4B, and 4C to the Planning
Commission, and in August 1978 submitted amendments to the
Urban Renewal Plan, changing the designated use of Site 4 from
a park to "institutional" use. The papers supporting the
change set forth the proposed uses as a yeshiva, a health
related facility, and a nursing home, and the designation of
the Academy as the developer.
The then recently adopted provision of the City Charter
known as the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (the Review
Procedure) required the amendments to go through various
reviews and hearings. The Planning Commission first had to
certify a proposal. Then the local Community Board, the
Planning Commission, and ultimately the Board of Estimate had
to hold public hearings, review the proposal, and approve or
On November 20, 1978 the Planning Commission certified the
amended plan and the proposed disposition and referred the
matter to the Community Board. The board held a public hearing
on December 19, 1978, and on January 9, 1979 recommended
approval of the Plan by a vote of 35 in favor, 5 against, and
approval of the dispositions of Sites 4A and 4B to the Academy
by a vote of 37 in favor, none opposed, and 4 abstaining. The
board tabled the vote on Site 4C pending receipt of further
information from the Academy as to its plans for further
development in the area. On March 13, 1979 the Community Board
approved the disposition of Site 4C to the Academy by a vote
of 34 in favor and none against or abstaining.
In the meantime and in February 1979 the Planning Commission
had held a hearing but withheld a vote until after the
Community Board had voted on Site 4C. On March 28, 1979 the
Planning Commission, after receiving the Community Board
approval as to Site 4C, certified an approval of the amended
plan. On the same date the Planning Commission approved the
dispositions to the Academy of Site 4A as a Health Related
Facility, Site 4B as a Medical Building, and Site 4C as a
School. On May 24, 1979 the Board of Estimate held a hearing
and approved the amended plan and the dispositions.
In late 1979 the Academy asked to be allowed to build on
Site 4C, a residence for the new Rebbe, the school chancellor,
with space for meetings concerning congregation and school
matters. The Development Department referred the matter to the
Planning Commission. On December 20, 1979, Robert F. Wagner,
Jr., the Chairman of the Planning Commission, advised the
Development Department that the Planning Commission found the
proposed change to be within the scope of the previous
approval since 75 percent of the residence would be devoted to
institutional purposes, and that the department could make the
In April 1980 the Board of Estimate, after a public hearing,
approved the transfer of Site 4C to the Academy, in accordance
with a written contract and at the appraised value of
$150,000. After receipt of the deed on October 20, 1980 the
Academy constructed the Rebbe's residence and community
office, completing it in 1981.
In the early 1980s the Academy had to abandon its plan for
a nursing home and a health related facility because state
funding was no longer available. The Academy thus requested
that the Development Department change the use of Sites 4A and
4B to a school and dormitory housing and later to faculty
In 1984 the Development Department proposed to amend the
Plan, changing, among other things, the approved uses of Sites
4A, 4B, and 4C from the specific institutional uses to a
generic institutional use and amending "institutional uses" to
include "dormitory facilities affiliated with religious
institutions." Theretofore "institutional uses", so far as
relevant, had included only "synagogues, churches, day care
centers, nursing homes, medical centers and related
facilities," and "[s]chools and related facilities."
The Development Department brought this suggested amendment
before the Community Board at a public hearing on February 28,
1984. Over five hundred people attended including Carmen
Calderon, who later became one of the three leaders of
plaintiff Housing Committee.
At the hearing Herbert Siegel, Director of Planning in the
Development Department, explained that the City was going to
do "something innovative in order to bring together two
communities [Hispanic and Hasidic] that had previously had
disputes." He said that the City was going to commit the funds
realized from its sale of parcels in Areas I and II to assist
in developing projects to benefit low and moderate income
families. This was referred to as a cross subsidy, originally
proposed by Commissioner Anthony Gliedman of the Development
Department because of the then lack of federal and state funds
At the Community Board meeting every site in Areas I and II
was discussed, including the proposed use of Site 4. The
Academy's use of Site 4A for a yeshiva and Site 4B for faculty
housing was thus brought before the Community Board.
At the four hour meeting Siegel made the initial
presentation and numerous others spoke. Siegel did not recall
many speaking in opposition to the Academy's plans for Site 4.
Most of the discussion concerned the relocation of thirty
families displaced in Area II. The Community Board minutes of
the hearing show that Ms. Calderon was aware that Sites 4A and
4B were to be sold to the Academy. She suggested that "all
sales monies" including those from "institutional Site 4
should go into cross subsidy."
The amended plan was approved by the Community Board. A
representative of the Community Board spoke at the Planning
Commission's public hearing and urged approval. A spokesman
for Epiphany Church, a largely Hispanic church, also voiced
support for the plan and its speedy implementation, presenting
a petition containing 1100 signatures. The Planning Commission
gave its approval on April 9, 1984. After a public hearing on
May 24, 1984, the Board of Estimate approved. This was all in
accordance with the requisite Review Procedure. No one
appeared in opposition at either hearing.
The final disposition of Sites 4A and 4B took place in 1988.
On February 1, 1988 the property was appraised at a fair
market value of $680,000. On July 14, 1988 the Board of
Estimate, after public notice and hearing, approved the
contract of sale between the City and the Academy at that