Henry Korman sent this letter to Newton Mayor Setti Warren this weekend…
Mayor Setti Warren
City of Newton
1000 Commonwealth Avenue
Newton Centre, MA 02459
This letter is my resignation from the Newton Housing Partnership and the Newton Fair Housing Committee. I resign in protest over your decisions concerning Engine 6, which I consider to be acts of discrimination.
I was appointed to the Partnership in 2005, and I have served on the Fair Housing Committee from the time it was first established as an advisory group to the Housing and Community Development Division of the City’s Planning Department, also in 2005. My contributions were not as an individual but rather as one person within a collaboration of citizens, City staff and elected officials whose aim was to effectuate a vision for the expansion of inclusive, affordable housing in Newton. Central to the collaboration has been a key moral and legal imperative. City housing and community development activities must at all times be carried out without discrimination, and with the objective of taking affirmative steps to further fair housing for all groups of people protected by civil rights laws, including people with disabilities and people of color.
Your decision to withhold funding from Engine 6 violates that central ethic. It denies homes to individuals who experience difficulty navigating the housing market because of their disabilities and history of homelessness. Based on what is known about the characteristics of the likely inhabitants of Engine 6, it also has the effect of excluding people based on race, color and national origin. Your stated reasons for withholding funds lack credibility. Your purported desire to stop the project in order to carry out “a community conversation around affordable housing” is contradicted by your decision to cut short the public comment process for funding Engine 6. Your protestations, made through the Commissioner of Public Health and the Director of Planning, that the individuals expected to live at Engine 6 would not receive the services needed for a successful project are not supported by the facts. The ability of Pine Street Inn to fully serve the residents of its housing is well documented. It is City officials that expressed the view that no City services would be available to Engine 6 tenants, a condition that can in no way be attributed to the project.
More to the point, you are withholding funding because you know that the project cannot go forward without City support. Your administration’s explanation for taking this action is based on presumptions that the people with disabilities who will live at Engine 6 must receive supportive services to the City’s satisfaction as a condition of living in Newton. Denial of housing opportunity based on this sort of stereotyping and on the imposition of conditions that are not applied to people without disabilities is the hallmark of discrimination. The justifications offered up for your decisions concerning Engine 6 are more than pretext. They are expressions of prejudice.
Whether intended or not, the decision to withhold funding from Engine 6 shows contempt for City staff, the members of the Partnership and the members of the Planning and Development Board, all of whom examined the Engine 6 proposal and recommended funding and full City support. Your decisions also disrespect the hundreds of City residents who have expressed their support for Engine 6 and their dismay at your withholding of funds. Tremendous injury has been done to what until now has been a collaborative effort at achieving a more inclusive and equitable City of Newton. I am unable to continue to serve on the Partnership and the Fair Housing Committee as part of an administration that has so little regard for this principle and that engages in acts of discrimination. As a consequence, I am compelled to resign.