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Fair Housing in Huntington Committee v. Town of Huntington

November 18, 2010

FAIR HOUSING IN HUNTINGTON COMMITTEE, HUNTINGTON BRANCH, NAACP, BERNARD PEYTON, ATHENA HAWKINS, LYNDA JOHN, AND IAN JOHN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TOWN OF HUNTINGTON, NEW YORK, TOWN BOARD OF THE TOWN OF HUNTINGTON, AND TOWN OF HUNTINGTON PLANNING BOARD, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurley, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Fair Housing in Huntington Committee ("FHHC"), Huntington Branch, NAACP, Bernard Peyton, Athena Hawkins, Lynda John, and Ian John (collectively, "Plaintiffs") bring this action against defendants Town of Huntington, New York (the "Town" or "Huntington"), Town Board of the Town of Huntington (the "Town Board"), and Town of Huntington Planning Board (the "Planning Board") (collectively, "Defendants") asserting violations of the fair housing laws. After this Court's recent dismissal of all claims in Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint concerning a housing development known as "Sanctuary" at Ruland Road (hereinafter referred to as "Ruland Road"), Plaintiffs seek leave to file a Second Amended Complaint to once again assert allegations concerning this development. By Order to Show Cause filed on August 11, 2010, Plaintiffs seek an Order (1) granting Plaintiffs permission to file a Second Amended Complaint, (2) reinstating Plaintiffs' previous motion for a preliminary injunction filed on March 22, 2010 which sought to halt construction at Ruland Road; and (3) preliminarily enjoining Defendants from issuing any building permits, letters of approval, or other consents allowing construction of one-bedroom units at Ruland Road. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs' application is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

The background of this case is set forth in this Court's prior decisions dated March 23, 2005, November 29, 2005, July 8, 2010, as well as the Second Circuit's decision in Fair Housing in Huntington Comm. Inc. v. Town of Huntington, New York, 316 F.3d 357 (2d Cir. 2003), familiarity with which is assumed. Thus, the Court will only state the facts necessary for disposition of the instant application.

The Original Complaint and Plaintiffs' First Request for a Preliminary Injunction

On May 8, 2002, plaintiffs FHHC, Senaye Green, Bernard Peyton, and Robert Ralph filed the initial Complaint in this action against the Town, the Town Board, the Planning Board, and S.B.J. Associates LLC ("SBJ") alleging, inter alia, that the development by SBJ of a 382-acre parcel of land located in the Town -- presently known as The Greens at Half Hollow (the "Greens") -- would have a disparate impact on minorities with regard to housing because all of the proposed affordable housing was limited to seniors. The Complaint sought to enjoin the Town from proceeding with development of the Greens and also sought damages. There was no mention of Ruland Road whatsoever in the Complaint.

Soon after filing the Complaint, Plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction directing the Town to revoke all then current permits allowing development of the Greens, enjoining the Town from issuing any further permits necessary for the development, and halting construction of the Greens by SBJ. By bench decision dated June 26, 2002, the Court denied Plaintiffs' motion. This decision was affirmed by the Second Circuit on January 17, 2003. See Fair Housing in Huntington Comm., 316 F.3d 357.

The Amended Complaint and the Parties' Attempted Settlement

On April 8, 2004, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint dropping two plaintiffs (Senaye Green and Robert Ralph) and adding four new plaintiffs (Huntington Branch NAACP, Athena Hawkins, Lynda John, and Ian John). In addition, the Amended Complaint no longer named SBJ as a defendant.

Although the Amended Complaint continued to seek redress based upon the Greens project and the allegedly discriminatory effect of its senior housing, Plaintiffs added a new claim concerning the separate housing development at Ruland Road. Plaintiffs alleged that the Town's actions in recommending the approval of a proposed housing plan for Ruland Road -- where the only affordable units were one-bedroom and studio apartments -- was discriminatory. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants knew or should have known that multi-bedroom units would increase the minority population while one-bedroom and studio units are far less likely to attract minorities.

On March 23, 2005, the Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint and the case was dismissed in its entirety. Thereafter, however, on November 29, 2005, the Court granted Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration. Upon reconsideration, the Court denied Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' first, second, third, and fifth causes of action. The fourth cause of action remained dismissed.

In May 2006, Defendants filed another motion to dismiss. However, in January 2007, the parties reached a settlement before Magistrate Judge William D. Wall and Defendants' motion was marked off the calender. After the settlement fell apart, Defendants' motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint was reinstated.

Plaintiffs' First Order to Show Cause and the Court's July 8, 2010 Memorandum and Order

On March 22, 2010, Plaintiffs filed an Order to Show Cause seeking to preliminarily enjoin Defendants from issuing any building permits, letters of approval, or other consents allowing construction of one-bedroom units at Ruland Road. The hearing on Plaintiff's application was adjourned sine die pending the Court's decision on Defendants' motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint.

By Memorandum and Order dated July 8, 2010, the Court dismissed Plaintiffs' Ruland Road claims. Essentially, the Court found that Plaintiffs' Ruland Road claims, which arose in 2000 but were not raised until 2004 when Plaintiffs filed the Amended Complaint, did not relate back to the original Complaint and were thus untimely. The Court also found that Plaintiffs had failed to allege a continuing violation. The remainder of Defendants' motion to dismiss -- including that part which sought dismissal of Plaintiffs' claims concerning the Greens -- was denied. Thus, as it now stands, the Amended Complaint contains allegations concerning the Greens only; all claims regarding Ruland Road were dismissed.

That same day, the Court issued a separate Order denying Plaintiffs' application for a preliminary injunction as moot since the Ruland Road claims upon which the motion was based had been dismissed. No appeal was taken from this Order, nor any motions for reconsideration filed.

The Current Application

Plaintiffs now seek to resurrect their Ruland Road claims via a proposed Second Amended Complaint which adds allegations of continuing violations that occurred within the last two years. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that on February 5, 2008, the developer submitted a site plan application that included 28 two-bedroom units at Ruland Road. In October 2008, however, the Town directed the developer to withdraw its revised plan and replace it with a plan for all one-bedroom units. The developer withdrew its revised plan and, on January 14, 2010, submitted an all one-bedroom plan. Thereafter, at a March 10, 2010 meeting, the Planning Board approved the all one-bedroom site plan. Plaintiffs argue that these new allegations simply describe relevant events that occurred long after the Amended Complaint was filed in 2004 and constitute violations within the applicable two-year limitations period that are either: (a) independent violations that are timely pled; or (b) part of continuing fair housing violations lasting over the past decade.

In addition, although a fair reading of the proposed Second Amended Complaint would appear to indicate that Plaintiffs still seek relief concerning the Greens, at least in the form of declaratory relief and money damages, Plaintiffs now state that "[t]he proposed Second Amended Complaint deletes the relief sought by Plaintiffs with regard to the Greens." (ECF No. 177 at 2.) Thus, Plaintiffs seek leave to file a proposed Second Amended Complaint seeking relief for Ruland Road only.*fn1 Plaintiffs also move to reinstate their previously filed ...


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