Precedent-Setting Agreement Reached With Pro Bono Legal Representation by Hofstra Law Students
Mayor Ralph Ekstrand of the Village of Farmingdale and Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University Professor Stefan H. Krieger held a joint press conference today at the Farmingdale Village Hall to announce the details of a settlement reached in a nine-year-old legal dispute.
The case was brought under the Fair Housing Act in 2006 by nine Latino residents who were displaced from their homes in the village when Fairfield Properties redeveloped their residence, located at 150 Secatogue Avenue. The settlement that was reached lays the groundwork for affordable housing development in the Village of Farmingdale.
The residents were represented by Hofstra Law students in the Law Reform Advocacy Clinic under the supervision of Krieger. In the clinic, students handle housing, community development and public interest cases for low-income individuals and community organizations in areas such as fair housing and exclusionary zoning, housing rehabilitation, housing conditions and housing discrimination. The clinic focuses on cases that will have an impact for low-income individuals on Long Island, especially new immigrants.
The Farmingdale case originated in 2004 when the Workplace Project, a local immigrant-rights community organization, referred tenants at 150 Secatogue Avenue to the Law Reform Advocacy Clinic for help in addressing the deplorable conditions in the building. After learning of the village’s redevelopment efforts, the clinic expanded its representation to challenge the planned displacement of the tenants from the building.
“The experience of our students preparing for a six-week federal jury trial is one that most students in any law school in the country will never have,” said Krieger. “And the work of these students developing close relationships with new immigrants and working to protect their rights has been a truly transformative experience.”
During the 11 years of the clinic’s representation of the clients, over 100 law students have worked on various aspects of the case.
“Working with a team guided by Professor Krieger, interacting with other attorneys and jumping headfirst into a case as complex and important as this has given me the confidence to say that I am ready for my future,” said third-year law student Kiran Raghubeer. “In addition, this experience has enabled me to work on high-profile civil rights litigation that I would otherwise not have had the opportunity to engage in if not for the clinic.”
The language in the agreement is being finalized, but all major issues have been resolved to the satisfaction of the parties. Under the agreement, the village will use its best efforts to promote the replacement of the housing units that were eliminated in the redevelopment.
“We hope to become a model for housing development on Long Island, and we commend Hofstra University in their determined efforts to represent people who otherwise might not have had a voice,” said Ekstrand.
“It’s wonderful we have reached an agreement with the community we love,” said Antonio Bustillo, one of the plaintiffs. “I hope that in the future all the people of Farmingdale can continue to work together.”