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Saturday, October 25, 2014
Island Park insurer: Let locals pay
(Page 2 of 3)
Howard Schwach/Herald
Homes on D’Amato Drive were built under federal program to construct homes for minority homeowners.

The original federal lawsuit was filed by a Hispanic resident of Island Park, who charged that he was rejected for a federally subsidized house in the village because of discrimination. The homes had been constructed in the village under a federal Housing and Urban Development department program designed to bring affordable housing to minorities in areas where no such housing then existed.

The plaintiff, Richard Rodriguez, filed the suit after The New York Times reported in June 1989 that a Department of Housing and Urban Development audit had accused Island Park officials of rigging the selection to favor politically connected villagers and to keep out minorities.

Among those selected for the homes, according to the HUD report were a cousin of Senator Alfonse M. D’Amato, several Island Park insiders, including the son of Geraldine McGann, a high-ranking HUD official. Island Park is the hometown of Mr. D’Amato, a Republican, and Mrs. McGann.

Rodriguez, a 35-year-old airline worker, argued in his suit that he had tried many times to apply for one of 44 houses subsidized by the federal program in the early 1980’s. But village officials, he said, repeatedly rejected his applications.

In October of 1990, the village’s insurer, National Casualty Company, a Scottsdale, Arizona based national insurer, moved in federal court to take a least part of the financial burden of any settlement from the company and move it to the local officials, based on the theory that they had perpetrated the illegal act and should bear the burden.

In 1995, the federal judge then hearing the case, Leo Glasser, ruled that Island Park violated the Federal Fair Housing Act and False Claims Act. He appointed Magistrate Steven Gold to recommend the penalties and remedies to be imposed.

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