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A federal judge has temporarily blocked the New York City Housing Authority's scheme to bar all but the most working-class applicants from the projects. On July 17, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Sweet issued a temporary injunction ruling against the authority's federally-okayed “incoming mixing” plan.

Accepting arguments by advocates for the poor, Sweet voided NYCHA's plan to admit only better-off applicants to vacant apartments, which advocates believe will effectively block all welfare recipients from new units in the projects. The city's plan was approved by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development last year. But Judge Sweet ruled that it might discriminate against black and Hispanic applicants–a violation of an anti-discrimination agreement worked out between the authority and the Legal Aid Society in 1992.

“It is victory–for the moment,” said Scott Rosenberg, Legal Aid's litigation director. “But it's not as big a victory as we would have hoped for….I think there are some advocates for low-income tenants who may not view this as a victory at all.”

Judge Sweet's decision affects all of NYCHA's developments–but only until the authority makes relatively minor modifications to its income-mixing plan to assure there is no discrimination. The judge rejected the broader argument that the plan will promote new instances of discrimination.

The next hearing on the case is expected in early September and Rosenberg doesn't expect the injunction to last much beyond that date. “We won't stop implementation of the plan forever,” he admits. “Beyond this, there are no more legal strategies to stop the preferences from going into effect.”

The anti-discrimination consent decree–widely known as “the Davis decree” after the Staten Island tenant who was the lead plaintiff–targeted 31 projects in which Legal Aid charged that discrimination against blacks and Hispanics have resulted in high percentages of white tenants. So far, 631 black or Hispanic Davis tenants have been moved into the selected developments to even out racial balances. Some 1,400 more will have to be moved in before the mandate of the agreement is fulfilled. NYCHA's press office refused comment on the case.

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