Home Breaker: Doing Community Disservice

Lazio’s Housing Bill Was So Bad It Made D'Amato Seem Reasonable

Not that the congressman shunned in his own district what he might otherwise consider HUD handouts. In 1995, when HUD was squarely in the sights of the GOP's guns, then secretary Henry Cisneros toured Bay Shore in Suffolk County, where, according to the Daily News, he was "squired through the decaying downtown by Rep. Rick Lazio and a horde of merchants. . . ." Before he left, Cisneros gave the Islip Town's Housing Authority $853,000 in grants. A few months earlier, HUD's then assistant secretary Andrew Cuomo popped out to Hauppauge with a $1.5 million check to set up a revolving loan fund for small businesses.

But Lazio's willingness to take checks from the agency he claims to hate may simply be opportunism, since his disdain for the poor seemed clear early on. In 1990, asa Suffolk County legislator, he supported a moratorium on placing welfare recipients in Bay Shore and Hampton Bays. Citing fair-share concerns, Lazio backed the measure even though a state agency said a similar resolution was probably unconstitutional.

The candidate in East Harlem, just steps from ‘‘federally subsidized slums’’
photo: Francis M. Roberts
The candidate in East Harlem, just steps from ‘‘federally subsidized slums’’

Years later, Lazio's anti-tenant legislation is no surprise. "Lazio believes that public housing and the people in public housing are a plague on communities," says Hockett. "This law does far more harm to the very poor who are on waiting lists than it does good for the working poor. It's not the investment in people it was masqueraded to be."

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