Fair Housing in Huntington v. Town of Huntington, Docket No. 02-7817.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
Citation316 F.3d 357
Docket NumberDocket No. 02-7817.
PartiesFAIR HOUSING IN HUNTINGTON COMMITTEE INC., Senaye Green, Bernard Peyton and Robert Ralph, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. TOWN OF HUNTINGTON, NEW YORK, Town Board of the Town of Huntington, Town of Huntington Planning Board and S.B.J. Planning Associates LLC, Defendants-Appellees.
Decision Date17 January 2003
316 F.3d 357
FAIR HOUSING IN HUNTINGTON COMMITTEE INC., Senaye Green, Bernard Peyton and Robert Ralph, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
TOWN OF HUNTINGTON, NEW YORK, Town Board of the Town of Huntington, Town of Huntington Planning Board and S.B.J. Planning Associates LLC, Defendants-Appellees.
Docket No. 02-7817.
United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.
Argued October 11, 2002.
Decided January 17, 2003.

Page 358


Page 359

Jeffrey Glekel, New York, N.Y. (Scott D. Musoff, Michael D. Birnbaum, E. Stewart Jeffries, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP, of counsel), for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

James G. Ryan, Garden City, N.Y. (Thomas B. Wassel, and Cullen and Dykman LLP, of counsel), for Town of Huntington, New York, Town Board of the Town of Huntington, and Town of Huntington Planning Board, Defendants-Appellees.

John A. Harras, Melville, N.Y. (Kenneth A. Brown and Morton, Weber & Associates, of counsel), for S.B.J. Associates LLC, Defendant-Appellee.

Before OAKES and STRAUB, Circuit Judges, and TRAGER,* District Judge.

Page 360

OAKES, Senior Circuit Judge.

Fair Housing in Huntington Committee ("FHHC"), Senaye Green, Bernard Peyton and Robert Ralph appeal the judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Denis J. Hurley, Judge, denying their request for a preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs have brought suit against defendants Town of Huntington ("the Town"), the Town Board of the Town of Huntington ("the Town Board"), the Town of Huntington Planning Board ("the Planning Board") and S.B.J. Associates LLC ("SBJ") under the Fair Housing Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection Clause, alleging among other things that the development by SBJ of a 382-acre parcel of land located in the Town will have a disparate impact on minorities with regard to housing. Plaintiffs sought several forms of relief in their motion for a preliminary injunction, but principally requested that construction be enjoined to the degree necessary to prevent exacerbation of the segregated nature of housing in the Town. Because we cannot say that the district court abused its discretion at this early stage in the proceedings and on the limited record before it, we must affirm.


Plaintiffs brought suit against defendants in May 2002 for housing practices which they claim result in discrimination based on race and national origin. In their complaint, plaintiffs rely in part on an earlier decision by this court concerning housing in Huntington. See generally Huntington Branch, NAACP v. Town of Huntington, 844 F.2d 926 (2d Cir.1988) (granting plaintiffs site-specific relief by ordering the Town to amend its zoning to allow for construction of affordable family housing in a predominantly white census tract after finding the Town's zoning practices violated the Fair Housing Act). In particular, plaintiffs' complaint points to historic zoning practices this court recognized as having a disparate impact on racial minorities by perpetuating segregation within the Town. See id. at 937-38. Plaintiffs go on to allege that the situation has not improved with regard to integration in Huntington, and that the Town's policies and practices with regard to affordable housing, if allowed to continue, will only exacerbate segregation within the Town.

More specifically, the complaint alleges that affordable housing developments approved by the Town in the so-called "White Areas"1 have been limited to age-restricted units which attract a disproportionately white pool of occupants. In the meantime, affordable multi-unit family housing that attracts more minority applicants has continued to be confined to the "Racially Impacted Areas" in Huntington. According to the complaint, currently 92% of government-assisted, multi-unit senior housing is located in the "White Areas," while no government-assisted, multi-unit family housing exists there.

Against this backdrop, plaintiffs allege that the Town is currently facilitating the development by SBJ of the largest undeveloped parcel of land suitable for residential purposes for another age-restricted project, further perpetuating segregation in the Town. While the project, known as The Greens at Half Hollow ("The Greens"), does include an element of affordable housing, it too is age-restricted, an exclusion that, according to plaintiffs,

Page 361

will result in a disproportionately low occupancy by minorities. They contend that allowing the project to go forward without providing for suitable, affordable family housing as one of the conditions of granting SBJ the numerous approvals necessary for the proposed development results in a disparate negative impact on minorities. Plaintiffs seek damages as well as injunctive relief in their complaint.

Roughly two weeks after filing their complaint, plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction from the district court. They requested that the court order the Town to revoke all current permits allowing development of The Greens, enjoin the Town from issuing any further permits necessary for the development, and halt construction of The Greens by SBJ. Following a hearing, the district court issued an oral decision from the bench denying plaintiffs' motion. They now appeal.


Plaintiffs challenge the merits of the trial court's decision, but also argue that the court did not make adequate findings under Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a) ("in granting or refusing interlocutory injunctions the court shall ... set forth the findings of fact and conclusions of law which constitute the grounds of its action."). Defendants, in addition to responding to plaintiffs' arguments on appeal, challenge plaintiffs' standing to bring suit.

I. Plaintiffs' Standing

We first address defendants' challenge to plaintiffs' standing to bring suit, a threshold matter we must resolve before reaching the merits of the trial court's decision. See Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs. (TOC), Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 180, 120 S.Ct. 693, 145 L.Ed.2d 610 (2000) (court has obligation to assure itself that plaintiff has Article III standing); United States v. Cambio Exacto, S.A., 166 F.3d 522, 526 (2d Cir.1999) ("Whether a claimant has standing is the threshold question in every federal case, determining the power of the court to entertain the suit.") (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

At the hearing on plaintiffs' preliminary injunction request, defendants questioned both the individual plaintiffs' standing to bring suit under the FHA and that of FHHC.2 The trial court responded by concluding that, at the very least, the individual plaintiffs, two of whom are also members of FHHC, had standing to assert their interest in living in an integrated community under the FHA. The court did question the definition of "community" for such purposes, but, after noting that the record was undeveloped on this point, stated that it would assume that a township constituted a "community" at the preliminary injunction stage of the proceedings. Defendants now repeat their arguments regarding plaintiffs' standing to this court. We discern no error in the trial court's decision at this point in the proceedings.

To the degree that defendants challenge the factual underpinnings of the allegations made by plaintiffs in support of their standing to bring suit, the argument is premature. See Gladstone, Realtors v. Village of Bellwood, 441 U.S. 91, 115 & n. 31, 99 S.Ct. 1601, 60 L.Ed.2d 66 (1979) (reviewing dismissal for lack of standing based on facts alleged in complaint and "revealed by initial discovery," but noting that adequacy of proof of plaintiffs' standing remained an issue for trial). It is not clear from the record how far discovery

Page 362

had proceeded, if at all, at the time of the district court's decision, but the parties certainly had not had an opportunity either to fully develop or fully contest evidence relevant to the merits of the case. Defendants, as well as plaintiffs, will have an opportunity to do so with respect to the question of standing following this appeal. Cf. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992) (party invoking federal jurisdiction bears burden of establishing elements of standing and "each element must be supported in the same way as any other matter on which the plaintiff bears the burden of proof, i.e., with the manner and degree of evidence required at the successive stages of the litigation"); Jackson v. Okaloosa County, Florida, 21 F.3d 1531, 1536 n. 5, 1541 (11th Cir.1994) (noting standing inquiry can be revisited at trial or summary judgment stage if not supported by evidence and defendants can contest issue at either time despite court of appeals' holding that plaintiffs had standing based on the pleadings); see also Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman, 455 U.S. 363, 383, 102 S.Ct. 1114, 71 L.Ed.2d 214 (1982) (Powell, J., concurring) (noting that, if complaint does not sufficiently answer question of standing, court may order plaintiff to supplement the pleadings by amendment or affidavit, or defendant may move for a more definite statement of fact).

The appropriate standard to apply at this stage of the proceedings is more analogous to that applied to a motion to dismiss for lack of standing. See Gladstone, 441 U.S. at 109, 99 S.Ct. 1601 (accepting as true not only allegations in complaint, but also facts contained in initial discovery materials, and construing them in favor of plaintiffs for purposes of standing question); see also Thompson v. County of Franklin, 15 F.3d 245, 249 (2d Cir.1994) (where court does not resolve any factual disputes, review is de novo, accepting allegations as true and construing complaint in plaintiff's favor). Thus, we will assume the truth of the facts alleged in plaintiffs' complaint, as well as those supplemented in plaintiffs' affidavits, and...

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