Panel Hears Residents' Redistricting Fears

By ROBERT BRODSKY, Newsday

A proposed state redistricting plan would dilute minority voting rights and divide close-knit communities across Nassau and Suffolkcounties, local residents and community advocates told a legislative task force Thursday.

Witnesses complained that the state Senate map would keep Central Islip, North Bay Shore and Brentwood -- which have growing minority populations -- in separate districts, the 3rd District, represented by Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), and the 4th District, held by Sen. Owen Johnson (R-Babylon).

Several called on the task force to consider an alternative map offered by Common Cause New York, an advocacy group, that would place the three communities and Wyandanch, now in the 4th district, into one district.

"This map systematically splits minority districts," Pastor Roderick Pearson, president of the lslip NAACP, told the state Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment. "Today we draw the line about gerrymandering in our district."

However, Assemb. Jack McEneny (D-Albany, the task force co-chairman, criticized the Common Cause plan for forcing incumbents into a single district.

The public hearing at the Suffolk County Legislature in Hauppauge was the sixth meeting of the task force since the map was released last month and the only one to be held on Long Island. A total of nine meetings are scheduled statewide.

Under the plan, Long Island would pick up one Assembly seat, while the region's nine Senate districts would remain intact. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has threatened to veto partisan-drawn maps that don't accurately reflect changes in population.

While a handful of residents commended the task force for the maps, and for keeping particular districts intact, most of the commentary was negative.

Residents of Hempstead, Massapequa and Lynbrook blasted the plan for dividing their 14th Assembly District, held by Assemb. Brian Curran (R-Lynbrook).

"There are a lot of issues on Long Island today," said Joseph McCarthy, a Lynbrook resident and commander of the VFW Post 2307. "We don't have to disrupt something that is good."

Assemb. Andrew Raia (R-East Northport), whose 12th District would be redrawn to stretch from Fort Salonga to Gilgo Beach, said residents, particularly the poor and the elderly, would have diminished access to their elected representatives. "Instead of strengthening representation, [the task force] is diminishing it," Raia said.


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