The de Blasio administration is fighting to keep under wraps studies of its own data used to analyze whether the city’s affordable housing lottery system reinforces segregation.
The latest result: a 31-page report filed in Manhattan Federal Court on Tuesday that contains the word “Redacted” 131 times over the spots where the findings would be — including eight times with the R-word screaming out in huge type.
The fight for secrecy stems from a suit filed by a civil rights group arguing that the city’s policy of giving so-called “community preference” for affordable housing to residents already living in a neighborhood keeps intact the racial and income status quo.
The Anti-Discrimination Center’s latest analysis of the issue isn’t public, thanks to objections by the city.
“It’s extraordinary that information that can’t be personally identified is treated as a state secret,” said Craig Gurian, an attorney representing the Anti-Discrimination Center. “This is information the public could not be more interested in. It’s not personal information. It’s how the housing lottery process — which can have tens of thousands of New Yorkers apply for a few apartments — whether people get a level playing field or not, based on race.”
Gurian first asked a federal magistrate judge to put this data into the court record in June 2017 after a statistics expert hired by the Anti-Discrimination Center completed his first report using the city information.
At the time, however, Judge Katharine Parker blocked the release of the study’s results, agreeing with the de Blasio administration’s request to keep it private while city lawyers prepared their response.
The city is due to file its response in late June. On Tuesday, Gurian asked the judge to unseal all the analyses of the city data when the city submits its report.
A Bevy of Redactions
The latest study, heavily censored with all the findings stamped “Redacted,” was drafted by Queens College professor Andrew Beveridge based on recent city housing lottery results. The document is dated April 1.
Beveridge looked at 168 of the 185 lotteries held between August 2012 and February 2017, and also provided data on segregation in New York’s community districts.
His report examines the city’s longstanding policy of awarding 50% of affordable apartments to residents who already live in the community district where the building is going up.
The lawsuit, filed in 2015, argues that the policy hinders integration of New York neighborhoods. The administration has defended the policy by noting local City Council members, in exchange for supporting affordable housing projects, often seek apartments for their constituents.
From the start, the lawsuit has presented the mayor — who is now running for president touting his work in the “fairest city in America” — with a quandary: How to create more affordable housing without making already segregated New York neighborhoods even more so.
The lawsuit also targets one of de Blasio’s signature programs: His promise to build or preserve 300,000 affordable apartments.
Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesperson for the city Law Department, noted Tuesday that the judge initially granted the city’s request to keep the entire report from the public, “recognizing that a protective order would expedite the litigation and encourage the full disclosure of all relevant evidence.”
Paolucci argued that releasing the full report would “place an adverse and potentially incorrect analysis into the public conversation.” He added that the city will respond “in the coming days.”
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