Thingish Things

In Westchester Housing Suit, Follow the Money

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - May• 22•12


The $7 Million Man

Watergate taught us one thing about American politics: follow the money. If you do that, you can learn a lot about why and how things happen. The Westchester low-income-housing dispute with the Obama Administration is no exception.

Once you learn how county taxpayers were milked for more than $7 million by a left-wing not-for-profit organization called the Anti-Discrimination Center, the case becomes far easier to understand.  

The Anti Discrimination Center must be a marble-columned institute headquartered outside Atlanta or Birmingham.  Right?  With a name like that it must have legions of lawyers and a distinguished board of directors running at least an arm’s length.  

One would think so, but one would be wrong.

The grandly-named Anti-Discrimination Center is, in fact, a tiny operation squirrelled inside a suite in a lower Manhattan office building. It has a total of seven names listed as “officers, trustees, directors and foundation managers,” but it is largely a one-man operation. A committed leftist called Craig Gurian runs the “Center,” and a couple of simple Internet searches reveal that he serves as its secretary, treasurer, spokesman, policy director, white paper author, executive director, and light-switch operator. Five of the seven persons listed as officers of the Center, including a Nico Gurian, report working thirty minutes per week. The sixth , Lori Bikson — aka Lori Bikson-Gurian — works half-time. Craig Gurian is the sole full-time employee listed on the organization’s latest available 990 tax filing.

In 2008, the Anti-Discrimination Center reported total assets of $29, 512. A year later, it reported assets of $6,646,171. What happened?  Where did all that money come from?

It came from Westchester taxpayers, courtesy of the federal government. Seven million four hundred thousand dollars were transferred in 2009 from taxpayers to the Anti-Discrimination Center as part of a legal settlement. Mr. Gurian, a dummy by no means, targeted leafy Westchester as a place where the labyrinth of rules governing federal housing grants may not have been meticulously followed. In the oil industry, this is called prospecting. Left-wing activists call it “social justice” research.

Mr. Gurian guessed right. Then county executive Andy Spano had, indeed, neglected to check off a box.  His administration had been accepting money for years from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to build low-income housing in the county. Race was expressly prohibited from being the factor in how, where, and for whom that housing was built, but it was supposed to be one of the factors. Spano, arguably the most liberal-minded county executive in Westchester history, had failed to follow that guideline.  

Mr. Gurian and his ADC discovered the error, reported it to the feds and a lawsuit was filed. When Mr. Spano and the County Board of Legislators surrendered rather than go bankrupt fighting federal attorneys, Gurian’s ADC was awarded the $7.4 million under a federal “whistleblower” law.  Nice work if you can get it.  Westchester, as a condition of the settlement, was required to build 750 units of housing at a cost of at least $50 million in “mostly white” communities, which it is ahead of schedule in doing.

But now the federal government is using the legal settlement as a hook, it readily admits, to go “beyond the four corners of the settlement.” It is suing the current County Executive Rob Astorino (a client who was not consulted for this column) to sue Westchester municipalities to break up zoning laws that protect said leafy residential streets from government multi-unit housing being plopped down in the middle of them. Overseeing the whole proceeding is a court appointed Federal Housing Monitor who is paid in excess of $900 per hour after hour after hour — at Westchester taxpayer expense –to dictate not just which communities should receive the housing, but where in those communities it should go.

The Obama Administration is calling its effort to dezone Westchester towns and villages its “grand experiment.” If it can use the sloppy management of HUD funds to force government housing into Westchester’s most expensive neighborhoods, it can do it in communities across the nation. When one considers that Westchester is the fourth most diverse county in New York State, on par with the Borough of Manhattan — one can only imagine what a target rich environment other places in America must be for social engineering advocates like the Craig Gurians of the world.

Willie Sutton famously responded to the question of why he robbed banks, “because that’s where the money is.” Today he might run a not-for-profit.

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  1. Antonio S says:

    Gurian is such a fraud. I wish he would just admit that he’s in it for the money. He currently owns a condo in Manhattan valued at over $1 million. Has another huge home in CT. To top it off, he just bought a home in Del Mar California ($1.2 million). Socialism pays

  2. Rob says:

    Also pays to be the son of an anti discrimination attorney. You too can attend Columbia Law and afford an $800,000 apartment in the city. Life is good when you’re living in the wealthy white neighborhoods you claim to despise. Nothing affordable, inclusive, or racially diverse about any of his former homes. East Hampton? Larchmont? Perhaps he’s just scouting out new places to sue.

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