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Murnick v. New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency

March 11, 1998

THEODORE R. MURNICK, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY HOUSING AND MORTGAGE FINANCE AGENCY AND 725 PARK AVENUE ASSOCIATES, L.P., DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



Argued February 4, 1998

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County.

Before Judges D'Annunzio, Rodr¡guez and Coburn

The opinion of the court was delivered by: D'annunzio, J.A.D.

Decided

The opinion of the court was delivered by

Plaintiff, Theodore R. Murnick, commenced this action against the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (Agency) and 725 Park Avenue Associates, L.P. (Associates) to set aside the Agency's approval of Associates' project in East Orange to construct fifty low and moderate income rental units. Plaintiff now appeals from a summary judgment.

The Agency facilitates financing of housing projects pursuant to its enabling statute, N.J.S.A. 55:14K-1 et seq. Associates applied to the Agency for financing in 1995, and it was approved over plaintiff's objection in 1996. Plaintiff commenced this action on July 24, 1996. He alleged in his complaint that the project "will have the effect of increasing the already high concentration of low income black residents in East Orange, New Jersey." He charged that the Agency "had no procedures for consideration of, and in fact did not consider its effect on, racial concentration in that neighborhood or in the city of East Orange as a whole," and that the Agency's procedures "were not in adequate compliance with the 1949 Housing Act or the 1964 and 1968 Civil Rights Acts." Plaintiff also alleged that the Agency's approval of the project "will have the effect of increasing or maintaining racial concentration which is likely to lead to urban blight" and that "local housing authorities are under an affirmative duty to promote and achieve integration in housing."

In his complaint, plaintiff sought the following relief:

A. Determining and declaring that in reviewing and approving the Park Avenue project, NJHMFA had no procedures for consideration of, and in fact did not consider, its effect on racial concentration in the neighborhood and in the City of East Orange as a whole;

B. Determining and declaring that the location of the Park Avenue project on the site chosen will have the effect of increasing the already high concentration of low income black residents in East Orange;

C. Enjoining and restraining defendant NJHMFA from issuing its Multi-Family Housing Revenue Bonds, 1996 Series, in connection with the project of defendant 725 Park Avenue Associates, L.P. located at 725 Park Avenue, East Orange, New Jersey;

D. Enjoining and restraining defendant NJHMFA from closing on its mortgage commitment for permanent financing with respect to the Park Avenue project;

E. Enjoining and restraining defendant NJHMFA from closing on the second mortgage from its Administrative Account.

Shortly after filing its answer the Agency moved for summary judgment. The record before the motion Judge, consisting of affidavits, demographic studies, financial analysis, market analyses and other relevant material, exceeds five hundred pages. The court granted summary judgment on the ground that there was no attempt by the Agency to foster patterns of segregated housing and that its actions did not have that effect. Judgment was also granted in part on plaintiff's motivation for opposing the project. The court found that he is a competing landlord.Judgment was entered on October 11, 1996 and plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal. While this appeal was pending, the Agency moved to dismiss on ...


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