Peekskill described itself as "saturated with group homes, group care facilities and transitional housing." See Schonfeld Affidavit, Exhibit C. In support of the present motion, plaintiff described the "undue concentration of disabled/assisted persons within the City of Peekskill." Florence Affidavit at P 9. In support of its contention, plaintiff has offered voluminous evidence of the level of publicly assisted housing provided by the various towns and cities located within Westchester County.
Courts have recognized the important State policy of deinstitutionalizing mentally disabled individuals and using "community residences" to house and teach them the skills they need to rejoin society. See, e.g., Crane, 472 N.Y.S.2d at 906. Not surprisingly, however, that cities and towns that have shown a past willingness to accommodate less fortunate members of our community sometimes find that their contributions create a magnet effect, drawing in ever-increasing numbers of groups with special needs.
Peekskill should be commended for its past efforts. Every community has at least a moral duty to share in the care of those whose disabilities place them in situations of great need. "The fact that some neighborhoods have a relatively high concentration of community residents is unfair to those neighborhoods who have been chosen to carry the weight of the community's responsibility for the mentally disabled." Crane, 472 N.Y.S.2d at 907.
The responsibility for insuring that public housing is borne fairly by each community rests with the county, state, and federal governments. Their actions should not exacerbate existing inequalities in public housing, in effect ghetto-izing the mentally disabled. However, plaintiff's past efforts to provide transitional housing do not create grounds for refusing to provide any more such housing. If the City of Peekskill feels it is wrongfully being treated by the state or county as a dumping ground for public housing, its political beef is with the state and the county.
Preventing housing for disabled people on the grounds that the City has already provided its fair share also comes perilously close to violating the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1), which prohibits actions that "discriminate in the sale or rental, or [that] otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any buyer or renter because of a handicap."
It is also possible that Peekskill's position runs contrary to the recently enacted Americans With Disabilities Act as discrimination against people on the basis of their disability.
The basic tenor of plaintiff's objections is that the City already provides more than its fair share of housing for groups like the homeless and mentally disabled who depend upon public assistance. In short, Peekskill's message is: no more in my back yard. For the reasons discussed above, we give such arguments little consideration.
Moreover, evidence exists demonstrating that the dire predictions of irreparable harm voiced by plaintiff once nine mentally disabled people move into the RSS project are ill-founded. The director of the Westchester County Community Residents Information Service Programs ("CRISP"), responding to plaintiff's reliance on a CRISP report, stated that:
"In my seven years with CRISP I can recall no instance of unpleasantness surrounding any of the supported and/or supportive apartments used for rehabilitative purposes. . . . In this instance I cannot agree with the city, especially in their misuse of the CRISP report and statistics. I do object to having CRISP's work "stretched" to fit an argument that it was not designed to address.
This tends to place plaintiff's claims of unfair burden and more speculative claims of irreparable harm in a somewhat different and less favorable light.
To conclude, because we find at present no likelihood of success on the merits, plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction is denied.
Dated: White Plains, New York
November 18, 1992
GERARD L. GOETTEL