Reader’s Digest developers charge Westchester town with discrimination

March 03, 2011 10:25AM

The Reader’s Digest campus in the town of New Castle

The developers who purchased the Reader’s Digest campus in Westchester in late 2004 with plans to build housing on the 114-acre property are suing the town of New Castle for repeatedly refusing to approve their development plans, charging that racial, age and socioeconomic motivations were in play in their decisions.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Summit Development and Greenfield Partners paid $59 million for the site six years ago and have since spent another $10 million on it, but between the financial crisis, the bankruptcy of Reader’s Digest, which forced the company to renege on its 20-year lease at its landmark headquarters there in 2009, and the town’s alleged resistance to affordable housing in the wealthy Chappaqua hamlet, the developers have had enough. They filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court Friday, seeking to force the town to buy the property back from them.

Among the arguments in their favor is a recent settlement between Westchester County and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which ordered 750 new affordable housing units in some of Westchester’s most white-bred communities, including New Castle, by 2015. (New Castle is 90 percent white).

Beginning in 2006, Summit and Greenfield have presented the town with three sets of plans for their so-called Chappaqua Crossing community, none of which have been approved. Their latest proposal would create 199 new residences, 20 of which would be reserved for “affordable” housing. The town has been quick to refute the discrimination claims, though, arguing that zoning rules have instead been the culprit for the repeated rejections.  [WSJ]