New York's Redistricting News
(January 2, 2003-February 20, 2003)

 Newsday: "A Democrat's Hope For Legislative Sway." February 20, 2003
 The Herald: "Dunne to be voted out of Salisbury." February 20, 2003
 New York Villager: "After 9/11, hopes of Chinese-Latino district fade." February 19, 2003 "Nassau Dems Release Redistricting Plan." February 12, 2003
 The New York Times: "Democrats Redraw Map for Districts In Nassau." February 12, 2003
 WNBC � NY: "Minority Groups Oppose City Redistricting Plan."  February 7, 2003
 Daily Freeman: "Kingston lawmakers oppose county's redistricting plan." February 6, 2003
 "Districting Plan Would Help Incumbents and Minorities." February 6, 2003
 Newsday: "Minority groups oppose redistricting plan." February 6, 2003
 Newsday: "Latino District Is A Must, Suffolk Told." January 29, 2003
 Kingston Daily Freeman: "Legislature remapping criticized." January 29, 2003
 The New York Times: "As Districts Are Redrawn, Wary Neighbors See Odd Bedfellows." January 26, 2003
 Newsday: "Corbin Chooses People Over Party." January 23, 2003
 Hickville Illustrated News: "Shame on You, Mr. Schmidt." January 17, 2003
 The Herald: "Redistricting or gerrymandering? Democratic plan would split N. Bellmore legislative districts." January 16, 2003
 The Herald: "Gerrymandering charged: Legislature split on redistricting." January 9, 2003
 The New York Times: "Dissenter Imperils Democrats' Plan to Tighten Grip on Nassau Legislature." January 3, 2003
 Times-Ledger: "Protest backfired in Ridgewood council fight: Commish." January 2, 2003

More Recent Redistricing News from New York

More Redistricting News from New York (April 23, 2002-November 7, 2002)

More Redistricting News from New York (December 29, 2000-April 22, 2002)

A Democrat's Hope For Legislative Sway
By Rick Brand
February 20, 2003

Anyway you look at it, David Mejias is the Democrats' best shot for a potential 11th vote to bolster their bare majority in the Nassau Legislature.

When the North Massapequa lawyer first ran for the county legislature little more than a year ago, he came within a scant 400 votes of unseating three-term GOP incumbent Salvatore Pontillo in a district that was better than 2-1 Republican.

While Republicans and Democrats have been embroiled in legislative hearings, news conferences and lawsuits over a seemingly esoteric battle involving over reshaping district boundaries for the next decade, nowhere is the impact more concrete than in the 14th district, where a rematch is likely between Mejias and Pontillo.

Right now, Republicans outnumber Democrats 21,000 to 9,700 in the district, a setup GOP officials would like to see remain. Democrats, however, are advocating changes that would remove some of the most heavily Republican areas from the district - including Seaford and Wantagh - while adding more Democratic Old Bethpage and Plainedge, shrinking the Republican advantage to 6,400.

"I want to run for the seat and if the Democratic majority in reapportionment can make it a fair fight district, great," said Mejias, 32. "Because if it's a fair fight the race will come down to the issues and on the issues I'll win." He maintains Democratic County Executive Thomas Suozzi has put Nassau on the road to fiscal recovery and Republicans have "played only the role of obstructionists."

Pontillo played down the importance of the new lines and maintained the Democratic majority has done nothing but raise taxes and expand government.

"No matter how they cut the lines, I'll put up my record against he Democratic majority, which has increased taxes 40 percent, increased spending by a half billion dollars and presided over an unprecedented expansion with seven new county departments," said Pontillo, 48.

Peter Schmitt, Republican minority leader, said Mejias' best chance has come and gone.

He said Pontillo was hurt by the loss of the Right to Life Party line and the poor showing of GOP county executive candidate Bruce Dent, both of which will be nonfactors in this year's legislative races. In earlier runs, Pontillo had won by 1,000 or more.

Schmitt also maintains that Democrats may face backlash from the changes they are proposing in reapportionment from communities such as East Massapequa. "They are slicing and dicing communities," said Schmitt.

Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) rejects Schmitt's assertions, claiming the Democratic map will be far fairer than the old lopsided GOP plan. "If the Republicans had their way they would not only keep the map they had in 1994, but also bring back the Republican county executive too," she said.

Even in the 14th district Jay Jacobs, Nassau Democratic chairman, emphasized the changes do not create a Democratic district. "It's no sure thing, but it gives us a more competitive chance and minimizes the impact of the Republican machine," he said.

But Mejias has started much earlier on his campaign, already raising $30,000, where two years ago at this time he had raised nothing.

Until 2000, Mejias was a Republican and even worked for Pontillo in past campaigns. He said he switched parties because he objected to the GOP's handling of the county fiscal mess and "the whole Republican mentality of vote the way you are told to and taking all your direction from Post Avenue," the site of the Nassau GOP headquarters in Westbury.

Joseph Mondello, Nassau Republican chairman, charged that Democrats' districting plan is a "total gerrymander," which he called "outrageous."

"They are trying to make it tough on us by moving some stalwart Democratic communities like Plainview into the district," said Mondello. "It's clear what's going on there."

GOP worries about the impending changes and Pontillo's past electoral performance are so significant that some party sources say officials are considering replacing him with a well-known Republican name, Gregory Carman Jr., son of the former congressman, now a federal judge.

Pontillo, however, said he is running and has no intention of stepping aside as long as the party gives him the nomination. "You run on your record and if you're proud of your record you don't worry about your opponent," he said.

But at least for now, Mejias said he likes his chances against Pontillo, noting that the last time around he edged him out where the GOP lawmaker lives and Mejias grew up. "He's from Farmingdale and I'm from Farmingdale," said Mejias. "If he's on the legislature and a new kid on the block can beat him in his home town, I think it's pretty clear how he's doing."

The Herald
Dunne to be voted out of Salisbury
By Nick Buglione
February 20, 2003

Consider it a Dunne deal.

The Nassau County Legislature will vote Feb. 24 on a redistricting plan, espoused by the Democratic majority, that will move Legis. Dennis Dunne's 15th District out of Salisbury to points south of Levittown.

Legis. Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), of the 13th District, will in turn take over Salisbury and become, for the most part, the East Meadow School District's sole county representative.

"It appears, from what I've seen of the map, that I lose everything west of Newbridge Road," a dejected Dunne (R-Levittown) told the Herald. "I'm going to do the best I can where I am, but I'd like to continue serving Salisbury."

The 11-member Nassau County Temporary Districting Commission was originally charged with the responsibility of coming up with a redistricting proposal for the Legislature to vote on, but the Democratic and Republican appointees developed different recommendations and couldn't agree on a comprehensive plan.

The onus then fell on the 19-member Legislature, and in a Feb. 10 news conference, the Democratic majority revealed a map of new district lines -- essentially a copy of what the commission's Democrats proposed, with a few revisions to predominately black and Latino districts.

Under that plan, Dunne will lose Salisbury to Gonsalves and take over a western section of North Wantagh and all of Wantagh and Seaford from Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick).

Testimony and letters from local residents, along with population shifts, were said to have precipitated the move.

"This is a fair plan for Nassau County, and it keeps all 19 incumbents in individual districts," said Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury), the Legislature's presiding officer.

Some East Meadow civic leaders, however, don't agree. Considering that the East Meadow School District is the largest in the county, they fear losing an extra voice in the Legislature.

"I'm a Democrat, and I'm speaking from my heart," said Helen Meittinis, president of the Community Association of Stewart Avenue in Salisbury and one of the redistricting plan's staunchest local opponents. "I feel betrayed by them.

"I think Norma is fantastic, and that has nothing to do with this. They're taking away the voice of the people. I believe there will be important decisions to come in the future, and we'll lose. We're dead in the water."

Richard Cardozo, president of the Carman Community Association, echoed Meittinis. "Norma is a good person, but having two good people is better than one good person," said Cardozo, who initially though it would benefit all of East Meadow to be covered in one legislative district.

Others in Salisbury, like community activist Viki DeJong, don't think losing a voice in the legislature will have such an impact. "I think it's a very minor point," DeJong said. "It's more important that we be represented by one legislator rather than two."

She reasons that one legislator serving the entire community will be more in tune with the issues and needs of that area.

Gonsalves said, "I think it was a good idea [to have two representatives]. If that reasoning was good in 1994, why isn't it good now?"

Still, with the Democrats holding a 10-9 majority over the Republicans in the Legislature, there's little doubt that the redistricting plan will pass on Feb. 24.

"They have the votes to pass it," said Dunne, who has family living in Salisbury and a granddaughter attending Bowling Green Elementary School.

Republicans had hoped that Legis. Roger Corbin (D-Westbury) and Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead), who initially expressed reservations about losing minority neighborhoods through redistricting, might oppose the plan. Revisions to the lines, however, were made and the two were pacified.

"This map maintains effective minority districts," Corbin said. "In fact, Districts 1 and 2 increase as a percentage of minority population and comply with the federal Voting Rights Act."

Charging the Democrats with gerrymandering -- deliberately rearranging boundaries to influence the outcome of future elections -- the Republicans will likely take their case to court. Yet Dunne is not so sure that'll make a difference.

"We'll fight it in court, but there has not been one decision in our favor when it comes to the gerrymandering of lines," said Dunne, who believes he's being moved out of Salisbury because of his success there in recent elections.

He also noted that he doesn't believe his move out of Salisbury will weaken support for Gonsalves. "I believe it strengthens Norma Gonsalves, because it's been a very good area for me," Dunne said.

Gonsalves doesn't think the move will hurt her chances of re-election either. "I guess the reason they put East Meadow as a whole is to weaken my base, but the East Meadow School District is my base," she said. "I work hard, so I'm not concerned whether or not it's going to."

But if anyone truly appears to benefit from the move, it's Democrat David Denenberg, who will pass the traditionally Republican neighborhoods of Wantagh and Seaford to Dunne -- making a November re-election bid probably easier for both of them.

"I am sure that's the way people will look at it," Denenberg said. "But if you look at my results in Wantagh and Seaford, I won in Seaford and barely lost in Wantagh. And I'm getting North Bellmore, which typically votes Republican.

"I hate the entire process, but unfortunately it's a necessary evil," he continued. "I'd say it's a fair plan."

Redistricting takes place every 10 years, in accordance with the U.S. Census. The Legislature's district lines were drawn in 1995, based on 1990 Census data. This marks the first time its lines were redrawn.

Once passed, the new districts will go into effect after legislators take office following the November election.

New York Villager
After 9/11, hopes of Chinese-Latino district fade
By Lincoln Anderson
February 19, 2003

With under two weeks left before new City Council lines are voted on, significant changes have been proposed in Council Districts 1 and 2's boundaries, but not the sweeping overhaul some want to create a multiethnic Chinese-Latino district. Redistricting is done every 10 years after the census to reflect population changes. The third draft of the proposed redistricting plan keeps Chinatown in District 1. However, under this latest plan, a southern section of the East Village and a few blocks on the south side of Houston St. would move from Council District 1 into District 2, while the southern spur of the current District 2, including the Grand St. Co-ops, would go into District 1.

An alternate proposal, submitted by the Asian American Legal and Education Defense Fund and Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, supports creating a so-called multiethnic Latino-Chinese District 2, roughly contiguous with the boundaries of Community Board 3 - 14th St. on the north, Bowery/Fourth Ave., on the west, winding over to the Brooklyn Bridge on the south.

At a public hearing last Thursday of the Districting Commission at City Hall, about 200 Chinatown residents turned out in support of keeping Chinatown in District 1. They were from two Chinatown organizations, Chinatown Planning Council, and to a lesser extent, Asian Americans for Equality. AALDEF, which had dominated two earlier hearings, was absent because of a fundraiser that night.

Audience members held signs urging that Chinatown stay in the current district - and also thanking the mayor for lifting the ban on fireworks at Lunar New Year.

"Asians and Lower Manhattan, Perfect Together," said one sign.

The overwhelming message from the partisan audience, echoed by Alan Gerson, councilmember for Lower Manhattan's District 1, is that removing Chinatown from District 1 would destroy ties formed between Chinatown and Lower Manhattan's other neighborhoods after 9/11. Also, Chinatown does not want to lose the advantages of being linked to post-9/11 economic recovery funds.

"Lower Manhattan has joined together to transcend district lines," testified Gerson. "It would be a travesty from the point of view of community-building to break up this district by drawing lines on the basis of race and ethnicity. Please keep Chinatown and the Lower East Side part of District 1 in tact - that is our imperative."

Councilmember Margarita Lopez, who represents the East Side's District 2, also testified, but didn't comment on whether Chinatown should be merged into a new district.

"I think the Asian community needs to make the decision for themselves," Lopez said later. If the issue is whether redistricting might help elect a Chinese councilmember, that decision should be Chinatown's, Lopez said.

"It's my understanding the Chinatown community is split on that," she said.

Speakers said Chinatown's growing strength as a political entity is a reason against a major redistricting change.

"I think what you are seeing tonight - Chinatown is coming of age," said David Chen, a C.P.C. director. "Chinatown is now north of Canal St., it's growing to the east. It's very inclusive of the community, more than it used to be."

He noted Battery Park City's skyrocketing Asian population.

"Who could imagine the 18 percent [Asian] population in Battery Park City already?" Chen asked. "It happened."

According to Richard Wager, a Districting Commission spokesperson, Battery Park City's Asian population saw a 75 percent increase in the 10 years between the last two censuses.

Chen, a member of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. advisory board, said there were reasons for and against a major redistricting, but the W.T.C. fallout was the deciding factor.

"The reason that tipped us was really 9-1-1," he said. "Chinatown was affected by ground zero because we are part of it.

"It's all about being in it," Chen stressed. "Not being marginalized. Keep us in District 1 - and then do what needs to be done."

Similarly, Ed Ma, a member of Community Board 2, said, "It is very hard and very tricky to have our district changed. Particularly since 9/11, our community has been economically integrated into the L.M.D.C. planning. It is better to have one bird in hand than three in the wood."

Po-Ling Ng, director of C.P.C.'s Project Open Door senior center, praised the commissioners for the latest plan and also gave a special thanks to Donald Hong, a C.P.C. board member who Mayor Bloomberg appointed to the Redistricting Commission.

"Thank you, commissioners, you are so smart!" Ng said.

Ng agreed Chinatown's voice is growing louder.

"A government of the people by the people and for the people..." she read aloud the inscription on the Council chamber's ceiling, adding, "and of the Chinese-American people!"

Spokesperson Wager said the commission feels the Districts 1 and 2 lines in the third draft are a "considerable change." He said influencing the change was the city charter's requirement that districts be as contiguous as possible - contiguous meaning "something understandable" - while the current border between Districts 1 and 2, zigzags north and south as much as goes east-west.

Wager said District 1's percentage of Asians - 42 percent - stays the same under the latest proposal. District 2's Asian population would be 11 percent.

B.P.C. asian growth 'compelling'

Wager said Battery Park City's having become 18 percent Asian was another argument for not shifting Chinatown into District 2, so as not to cut the B.P.C. Asians out of the district.

"It's just compelling," Wager said of the B.P.C. increase.

Wager said the changes in the district lines were based on Gerson's request, but that Lopez had actually fought hard to keep the Grand St. co-ops in her district.

Susan Stetzer, co-president of Coalition for a District Alternative, Lopez's organization, testified in favor of a plan similar to AALDEF's, for making District 2 roughly co-terminus with Community Board 3.

Under the commission's plan, District 2 will also get the 1,200-unit Village View Mitchell-Lama co-op buildings and the First Houses, New York's first public housing projects. Stetzer's block will also move into Lopez's district.

"Even though CoDA wanted a Latino/Asian district," Stetzer said, "we still think that what they're doing now is better than how it was."

Adam Silvera, a Democratic district leader and Village View board member, approved of the changes.

"We're at the very northern end of the former Gerson district, and it's just completely natural to be with the rest of the East Village and Alphabet City," Silvera said in an interview.

Ten years ago, Silvera recalled, Village View was redistricted from District 2 to District 1 because it had a 20 percent Asian population. Village View is now 25 percent Asian, he said.

Don Lee, a Community Board 2 member not allied with C.P.C., AAFE or AALDEF, was observing the hearing holding a map of Manhattan on which he had drawn in pencil a line up the middle of the island from the Battery then curving over to the east along Houston St., a bit like AALDEF's proposal, but shifted Downtown.

"I think there should be more significant changes," Lee said, complaining the Redistricting Commission was "stacked" by Hong's appointment.

The new plan would move the Grand St. co-ops, with its 4,400 units of housing, into District 1. Lola Finkelstein, a member of the United Jewish Council, testified that U.J.C. backs the plan, feeling the co-ops became linked to Downtown and Chinatown by 9/11.

"I think 9/11 banded us inextricably with our southern neighbors," said Joel Kaplan, U.J.C. executive director, in a phone interview. He was unable to make the hearing because of a commitment.

Kaplan noted several Grand St. co-op members lost their lives in the Trade Center attack, and that Lower East Side Hatzolah, a volunteer ambulance corps, lost an ambulance in the disaster and several of its members barely escaped with their lives.

Kaplan also noted that Chinatown has expanded into the Grand St. area and that of the 800 homebound seniors U.J.C. serves with home attendants to, up to 200 are Chinese.

Some would suspect the co-ops want to be in Gerson's district for ethnic reasons: The co-ops are heavily Orthodox Jewish, and Gerson is Jewish, while Lopez is Puerto Rican. But Kaplan said Grand St. has no complaint with Lopez's representing them.

"I just want to say for the record, we have a very good relationship with Margarita Lopez," Kaplan said. "This is not for whoever the councilmember is this year or next year. This for the next 10 years. We're more linked with the south than the north."

Lopez backs New district lines

For her part, Lopez said she supports redistricting based on "geopolitical/geographical" boundaries, like large boulevards, that naturally separate neighborhoods. Lopez believes this reasoning was behind the Grand St. co-ops being moved out of her district and the East Village portion of Gerson's district being restored to her district. She hopes it wasn't ethnic gerrymandering.

"I do not accept the notion that a population that is majority Jewish should not be represented by a Latino woman," Lopez said in an interview. "I reject that."

There was some confusion over a map the commission handed out showing Gerson's District 1 would also get the Samuel Gompers public housing project and Masaryk Towers Mitchell-Lama complex from Lopez's District 2. Lopez told The Villager she would fight to prevent this. CoDA's Stetzer said it was actually "a mistake," and District 1 isn't getting these areas. Lopez said it would be legally challengeable by the Justice Department if her district lost Gompers and Masaryk, since that would decrease the Latino population from its current 22 percent.

The Redistricting Commission commissioners will vote on a final plan on Feb. 26 at 110 William St., fourth fl., at 9:30 a.m. There will be no vote by the City Council.

Nassau Dems Release Redistricting Plan
By Monte R. Young
February 12, 2003

After weeks of intense in-house bickering, Nassau Democrats yesterday released proposed legislative district lines for the next 10 years that would shore up shaky Democratic incumbents and weaken several Republicans.

"This is a fair and competitive plan that keeps all 19 incumbents in their individual districts," Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) said. "We wanted a fair fight. We have seven Democrat districts and 12 Republican districts. We think this plan will stand against any legal challenge."

But legislative Minority Leader Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) said the GOP might challenge the legality of the plan. He accused Democrats of "slicing and dicing every village and neighborhood" to build up Democrat strongholds.

"We have received no census data, nothing. The entire process is sloppy," Schmitt said.

The proposal comes after the 10-member Temporary Districting Advisory Commission couldn't come up with a bipartisan plan. Both sides accused the other of political maneuvering.

Republicans had submitted a plan to keep the districts virtually the same as now. The Democrats' plan called for seven strong Democratic districts and is similar to the most recent proposal.

With Democrats holding a one-vote majority in the county legislature, their plan is likely to be approved at the next legislative meeting on Feb. 24, days before the county charter's deadline of March 3.

The legislative lines are key in the November elections that will decide which party will control the 19-member Nassau County Legislature. Republicans lost control in 1999, when Democrats pulled a stunning upset in a county that is still heavily Republican.

Under the proposed lines, Democrat legislators Brian Muellers of Glen Cove, David Denenberg of Merrick and Joseph Scannell of Baldwin, all elected in Republican districts, would have more registered Democrats in their districts than they have now.

The plan places additional Democrats in the districts of Republican legislators Salvatore Pontillo of Farmingdale, Norma Gonsalves of East Meadow and John Ciotti of North Valley Stream, giving Democrats a better chance of winning in those districts.

The Democrats' final plan came after sticky points with two minority legislators were cleared.

Legis. Roger Corbin (D-Westbury) and Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead) had held up the plan arguing that blacks would be disenfranchised by shifting certain communities into neighboring districts that are predominantly white. Corbin had threatened to back a Republican plan.

Yesterday Corbin said, "This map maintains effective minority districts. It meets all my requirements. I was protecting black voters in my district, because until both parties support black candidates, there will always be a need for minority districts."

Declining to go into details, Corbin and Abrahams said they have been assured by party leaders that in the future county programs, such as youth services, won't be cut. They said other economic plans are in the works to help minority businesses obtain bank loans.

Abrahams had balked at an earlier plan to move voters from his predominantly minority 1st District, to shore up Democrat support for Denenberg.

But sources said Abrahams was angered that Denenberg continued to call for former lawmaker Patrick Williams of Uniondale to be fired from his job at the Nassau Downs Off-Track Betting. Williams, a Uniondale Democrat, resigned his county legislative seat on July 23. He stepped down the day before he pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to submit false documents on behalf of five prospective minority homeowners.

Abrahams said he supports the proposed plan, but added, "I believe there are legislators, Republican and Democrat, not capable of representing my constituents the way I can. Those constituents are still in my district."

Denenberg said, "I do not subscribe to the knowledge that I can't represent them just because I said Patrick Williams, a friend, shouldn't have a job," Denenberg said. "Kevan ought to grow up. I'm going to speak my mind."

The New York Times
Democrats Redraw Map for Districts In Nassau
By Bruce Lambert
February 12, 2003

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. � Democrats in the Nassau County Legislatture unveiled a map of new district boundaries today that they hope will expand their tenuous one-vote majority in next fall's elections.

The Democrats declared that the new plan would be fair to both Democrats and Republicans. But the Republican minority is expected to oppose the map when it comes up for a vote in a few weeks, saying that the lines are politically motivated.

The original map was drawn in 1994, when Republicans controlled Nassau, and Democrats say it concentrated their party's voters into a few districts and gave the Republicans the advantage in all the rest.

Unexpectedly, however, Democrats won control of the Legislature in 1999, 10 seats to 9. They scored upsets in several Republican districts when voters rebelled against the county's mounting deficits.

Nassau, a longtime Republican stronghold with a party machine praised as the one of the nation's strongest, has seen other Democratic inroads in recent years. In 2001, Thomas R. Suozzi was elected Nassau's first Democratic county executive in three decades. And party membership is inching up. In 1994, the Republicans had 46 percent of Nassau's voters to 31 percent for the Democrats, but that lead has narrowed to 42 percent versus 34 percent.

Now, with reapportionment required because of the 2000 census, the Democrats can reshape the district map to try to ensure their legislative control for next 10 years.

By shifting boundaries, the map unveiled today would bolster the marginal Democratic legislators � those who won upsets � by giving th their districts more Democratic voters and fewer Republicans. The net changes are about 3,000 voters per district.

The new lines would also give the Democrats a chance of winning one or two more seats. Party strategists say that the most vulnerable Republican legislators are John J. Ciotti in the 3rd District, in the Elmont-North Valley Stream area, and Salvatore B. Pontillo in the 14th, in the Farmingdale-Old Bethpage area.

Party registration in Mr. Ciotti's district, which now has 1,489 more Republicans than Democrats, would switch under the new map to a Democratic edge of 2,392 voters, according to charts released today.

The only other district whose party lead is changing is the 16th, in the Syosset-Woodbury area, held by the Legislature's Democratic presiding officer, Judith A. Jacobs. It would go from a Democratic lead of 3,249 to a Republican edge of 463.

But party figures do not tell the whole story, since they do not always reflect actual voting patterns. Some Republicans are crossing party lines, and the large nonaligned vote can swing to the Democrats. So Ms. Jacobs's aides say they expect her to be re-elected by a wide margin.

Conversely, Mr. Pontillo has 10,915 more Republicans than Democrats in his current district, but he survived re-election by only a few hundred votes in 2001. Under the new map, his advantage on paper would dwindle to 6,425.

Ms. Jacobs called the new map "fair and equitable." The proposal retained all the incumbents in their own districts, refraining from pitting them against one another, she said. The proposed districts also cross fewer village boundaries than the current map does, she said. And the proposal retains two predominantly black districts, one held by the deputy majority leader, Roger Corbin.

Mr. Corbin had threatened to oppose the new map because a previous draft split Lakeview out of his district. But the final version reattached it, and he endorsed the plan.

"We have one map," Ms. Jacobs said, "and we have 10 votes to pass it." The Legislature's Republican minority leader, Peter J. Schmitt, said his delegation was frozen out of the drafting of the current proposal and had not received detailed data to analyze it. But he charged that it was drawn at the behest of Democratic leaders.

If the Republicans challenge the boundaries in court, Ms. Jacobs said, Democrats are prepared to defend it.

Suffolk County has its own wrangling over redistricting, but the issue is even more complex there. While Republicans have 10 of the 18 seats, last month some of them teamed up with the minority party to pick a Democrat, Maxine Postal, as presiding officer. With Suffolk's ever-shifting coalitions and intense political intrigue, there is no consensus yet on new district boundaries � or even how many seats there will be. A hearing was held today on a proposal to create a new 19th District, partly to avert tie votes and partly to create a predominantly Hispanic district. Another proposal is to shrink the Legislature to 11 seats, an unlikely prospect since seven incumbents would be thrown out of work.

Minority Groups Oppose City Redistricting Plan
February 7, 2003

NEW YORK -- A redistricting plan that increases the voting power of Asians and Hispanics in City Council races was given preliminary approval Thursday by the city's districting commission, though minority groups said they did not support the proposal.

The plan would have 23 of 51 City Council districts with a majority population -- more than 50 percent -- that is Hispanic, Asian and black.

Twelve of the districts would be majority Hispanic, 11 would be majority black and 18 majority white. Another 10 districts would not have a majority of any single ethnic group.

It would be the first time in the city that Hispanics have more council seats than blacks.

The current council districts have 10 Hispanic majority districts, 11 that are black, two with a plurality of Asians and 28 with a majority or plurality of whites.

Under the districting commission proposal, Asians would constitute more than 25 percent of the population in four districts -- three in Queens and one in Manhattan. In two of those districts -- Chinatown in Manhattan and Flushing in Queens -- they would make up at least 42 percent of the population.

Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, however, said the plan would dilute Asian voting power and is no better than the commission's two previous proposals.

"For the Asian community, it's gotten worse," said Fung. "I don't see the improvement for Asian Americans and, in fact, it's gotten worse in lower Manhattan," where Chinatown has been divided between two council districts.

The Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund also voiced opposition to the plan's lines.

The plan must comply with the City Charter and the federal Voting Rights Act, thus preserving or bolstering minority voting strength, keeping neighborhoods intact and encouraging political diversity.

The proposal will now be the subject of a series of public hearings. The commission may make changes to the plan after the hearings and before a final vote.

The proposal must eventually be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The commission is made up of seven appointees of Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg, five appointees of Democratic City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and three appointees of City Council minority leader Jim Oddo, a Republican.

Oddo, who has been feuding with Bloomberg recently, released a statement Thursday attacking Bill Cunningham, the mayor's communications director, who had significant influence over the redrawn lines.

"Republicans in the New York City Council need Bill Cunningham talking about our party like a fish needs a bicycle," Oddo wrote in a statement distributed to reporters. "Cunningham would not know a Republican principle if he tripped over Abe Lincoln and fell into Ronald Reagan's lap."

Cunningham, who has previously worked for former Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo and former Democratic U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, responded: "I have no ax to grind with Jimmy Oddo."

The Daily Freeman
Kingston lawmakers oppose county's redistricting plan
By Paul Kirby
February 6, 2003

KINGSTON - City lawmakers have voiced unanimous opposition to Ulster County's legislative redistricting plan.

All nine members of the Common Council - including four Republicans - voted Tuesday night for a resolution that opposes the redistricting plan, which was drawn up the GOP-dominated county Legislature.

What rubs city lawmakers the wrong way is that the city of Kingston no longer would be a legislative district unto itself, as it is now. Instead, most of Kingston would be one district, represented by four legislators, while the remainder of the city would be in a district with the neighboring town of Ulster, represented by two legislators.

Mayor James Sottile, a Democrat, voiced support on Wednesday for the council's action.

"I applauded the council in their vote opposing the plan that is before the Legislature right now," Sottile said.

The legislative boundaries in Ulster County must be redrawn to represent population shifts reflected in the 2000 Census. A plan enacted by the county Legislature in 2001 was ruled unconstitutional by a state Supreme Court justice, but he let it stand for the November 2001 election because there was not enough time to change it.

A revised plan has now been approved by county lawmakers, but Democrats at the county level oppose it and apparently have collected enough signatures on petitions to force a public referendum on the issue this fall.

Bill Reynolds, the Kingston Common Council's majority leader, said it's not right to divide the city over two districts.

"Although we believe in being neighborly, as evidenced by our intermunicipal sewer agreement (with the town of Ulster), we believe that elected officials representing the city on the (county) Legislature should represent Kingston - and only Kingston," said Reynolds, D-Ward 7.

"This is very important because we, as the city of Kingston, need to increase our clout as much as we possibly can on the county Legislature," Reynolds added. He said the county's current plan will "water down Kingston's influence" in county government.

Alderman Robert Senor, the council's minority leader, voted in favor of the resolution but said the matter should have been taken up at the committee level first.

"This is not a pressing thing," said Senor, R-Ward 8. "This is not something that needs to be a late communication to this council. If we sent it to committee, I would not have a problem with that, and we would move forward from there."

But "I would be crazy to vote 'no' on this," Senor said of the council's resolution.

Reynolds said Senor's desire to have committees take up the matter suggests hesitancy.

"That was the feeling I got, but I guess they (Republicans) considered it and decided to stand up against the Republicans on the county Legislature," Reynolds said.

Senor said he was not trying to stall action.

"I don't want to see the city broken up either, but I just felt that this was not an emergency where we need a late resolution," Senor said. "This was politics."

Minority groups oppose redistricting plan
By Timothy Williams
February 6, 2003

NEW YORK -- A redistricting plan that increases the voting power of Asians and Hispanics in City Council races was given preliminary approval Thursday by the city's districting commission, though minority groups said they did not support the proposal.

The plan would have 23 of 51 City Council districts with a majority population _ more than 50 percent _ that is Hispanic, Asian and black.

Twelve of the districts would be majority Hispanic, 11 would be majority black and 18 majority white. Another 10 districts would not have a majority of any single ethnic group.

It would be the first time in the city that Hispanics have more council seats than blacks.

The current council districts have 10 Hispanic majority districts, 11 that are black, two with a plurality of Asians and 28 with a majority or plurality of whites.

Under the districting commission proposal, Asians would constitute more than 25 percent of the population in four districts _ three in Queens and one in Manhattan. In two of those districts _ Chinatown in Manhattan and Flushing in Queens _ they would make up at least 42 percent of the population.

Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, however, said the plan would dilute Asian voting power and is no better than the commission's two previous proposals.

"For the Asian community, it's gotten worse," said Fung. "I don't see the improvement for Asian Americans and, in fact, it's gotten worse in lower Manhattan," where Chinatown has been divided between two council districts.

The Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund also voiced opposition to the plan's lines.

The plan must comply with the City Charter and the federal Voting Rights Act, thus preserving or bolstering minority voting strength, keeping neighborhoods intact and encouraging political diversity.

The proposal will now be the subject of a series of public hearings. The commission may make changes to the plan after the hearings and before a final vote.

The proposal must eventually be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The commission is made up of seven appointees of Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg, five appointees of Democratic City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and three appointees of City Council minority leader Jim Oddo, a Republican.

Oddo, who has been feuding with Bloomberg recently, released a statement Thursday attacking Bill Cunningham, the mayor's communications director, who had significant influence over the redrawn lines.

"Republicans in the New York City Council need Bill Cunningham talking about our party like a fish needs a bicycle," Oddo wrote in a statement distributed to reporters. "Cunningham would not know a Republican principle if he tripped over Abe Lincoln and fell into Ronald Reagan's lap."

Cunningham, who has previously worked for former Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo and former Democratic U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, responded: "I have no ax to grind with Jimmy Oddo."

Districting Plan Would Help Incumbents and Minorities
By Jennifer Steinhauer
February 6, 2003

The commission charged with redrawing City Council districts is set to vote today on a new set of lines that gives more power to the city's Hispanic and Asian voters, but still largely protects City Council incumbents, according to people involved in the redistricting process.

The new lines, which were heavily influenced by the Bloomberg administration, deviate in several ways from those originally drawn up, in October. The original lines would have protected most Council incumbents but were criticized by some groups representing Hispanics for failing to recognize the growth of their population.

Council leaders and the Bloomberg administration � who together apppointed the 15 commission members � agreed to hew more closely to Mayyor Michael R. Bloomberg's vision for increasing the representation of the city's minorities, some of which have shown proclivities for voting Republican in recent elections.

The plan rejiggers existing district lines to create new ethnic majorities in four districts, while keeping the same number of Council seats, 51, over all.

Under the plan, the city will add two districts with Hispanic majorities � one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn. It raises the number to 12, three more than in the October plan. It also increases the number of heavily Asian-influenced districts to four from two by changing the parameters of one district in Brooklyn and one in Queens.

But the administration fell short of its goal to create three new "fair fight" districts � districts that would have increased the chances of RRepublicans being elected.

The administration sought to reconfigure District 4 in Manhattan, home to Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, and District 19 in Queens, where Tony Avella holds the seat. Both are Democrats. It also wanted to maintain the current mix of District 47, a heavily Russian area in Brooklyn where Domenic M. Recchia, another Democrat, in 2001 narrowly defeated Oleg Gutnik, a Russian-speaking candidate who campaigned with Mr. Bloomberg.

Mr. Avella, whose decision to vote against a property tax increase displeased both Mr. Bloomberg, a Republican, and the Council speaker, Gifford Miller, a Democrat, will see his district's lines redrawn to increase the percentage of Republicans to 28 percent from 23 percent. But Mr. Miller stepped up to protect Ms. Moskowitz and Mr. Recchia personally, said people who worked with the commission.

Mr. Recchia will now lose some Russian voters to District 48, adding Italian-Americans in their stead, which would presumably help him retain his seat.

Although the Bloomberg administration lobbied hard to increase Republican voting power, its attempts are expected to be curiously thwarted by the Council Republican minority leader, James Oddo of Staten Island, who decided to take his three votes on the commission and side with Mr. Miller's five voting members. In effect, by helping Mr. Miller protect two Democratic incumbents, Mr. Oddo chose to place his support with the speaker over his ostensible desire to increase conservative representation on the Council.

Mr. Oddo, whose decision has not endeared him to the mayor, has been publicly supportive of Mr. Miller in the last month. He praised a speech Mr. Miller gave this week in which the speaker hammered the Republican governor and the president for what he believes is inadequate financial help to New York City.

Mr. Oddo said yesterday that the Bloomberg administration approached him about District 47 too late in the process, and that he did not want to damage his relationship with Mr. Miller at a time when his rapport with Mr. Bloomberg was poor.

"I have one card to play," Mr. Oddo said, "and that is the speaker. I am not going to alienate him."

Shifting the Council's district lines � a process that usually sendds shivers through the Council Chamber � is required to square populaation changes recorded in the 2000 census with the one-person, one-vote standard by ensuring that each of the districts have roughly the same number of people.

Further, the commission is charged with complying with the City Charter and the federal Voting Rights Act, by preserving or increasing minority voting strength, keeping district lines contiguous whenever possible and encouraging political and racial diversity.

Bloomberg administration and Council officials appear to be at peace with the changes. "We're set," said one Council official.

But some groups representing Hispanics are not satisfied with the number of new districts with Hispanic majorities.

"We have put in for 13 total Latino majority districts based on population, making the areas more similar to community board lines," and other factors, said Raquel Batista, the Latino voting rights policy analyst at the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. But the group prefers the map that is to be voted on today over the earlier plan, which reduced the number of Hispanic districts, she said. That "was horrible," she said.

Under the plan, District 38 in Brooklyn has its lines moved north and south to create a Hispanic majority, even though the district has a growing Chinese population. District 7 in Manhattan, which was 45 percent Hispanic, is 50 percent Hispanic under the new plan.

The charter allows a 10 percent deviation from a district's ideal population, in this case 157,025 people. That means the total deviation of the smallest district and the largest may not be more than 10 percent from the ideal. With the redrawn lines, the smallest district, in Staten Island, is almost 6 percent below, and the largest district, in the Bronx, is 4 percent above the ideal population.

Latino District Is A Must, Suffolk Told
By John Moreno Gonzales
January 29, 2003

A group of politicians and activists demanded yesterday that the Suffolk County Legislature establish a new voting district in Brentwood and Central Islip, to reverse what they called decades of political neglect toward mostly Latino residents in the area.

At a news conference in the lobby of the county legislative building in Hauppauge, Assemb. Philip Ramos (D-Brentwood), Legis. Vivian Viloria-Fisher (D-Setauket) and activists from the Brentwood area said the new county legislative seat is needed to comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A representative of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, also at the news conference, said his group was prepared to sue the county if a new seat was not formed in the redistricting.

"There will be a lot of talk about race and a lot of talk of dividing the community," said Ramos, elected in November after the state created his Brentwood and Central Islip area district to comply with voting rights laws. "But this is about creating a district of common interests. Nobody can call it gerrymandering."

Viloria-Fisher, who proposed a charter amendment two weeks ago to create the district, said newly elected Presiding Officer Maxine Postal (D-Amityville) was trying to draw election boundaries that would not sap votes from incumbents, rather than grant a political voice to Latinos and blacks.

"I think representation is a more important issue than incumbency protection," Viloria-Fisher said.

Postal, who yesterday was holding her first session as presiding officer, said there is little doubt a majority minority district must be created in the Brentwood area.

Current electoral boundaries divide the Hispanic vote there. They run down the community lifeblood of Fifth Avenue and result in a District 10 that is 38 percent Latino and a District 9 that is 17 percent Latino.

Postal, however, said the district boundaries proposed by the news conference organizers would divide municipal entities such as the Central Islip School District and were a misguided effort to create a district in which Latinos are 52 percent of residents. Postal would prefer Brentwood area boundaries that would include more blacks and drop the Latino district residents to about 48 percent.

"Their proposal assumes that people of color will have more common interests than people who live in the same school district," Postal said.

Elie Mystal, Postal's chief of staff who is mapping a new district, said his boundaries would encompass Brentwood and North Bay Shore, in order to keep Central Islip intact.

"By law, more or less, we are required to draw a minority district," he said. "But I am not charged to create a Latino district. If they want to go court, they will lose the suit."

Kingston Daily Freeman
Legislature remapping criticized
By William J. Kemble
January 29, 2003

ATHENS - Seven proposals for redistricting the Greene County Legislature brought repeated concerns Tuesday from an audience of about 30 people who said prison populations at two Coxsackie facilities should be taken out of population figures.

The comments came during a public hearing that included concerns over "weighted" voting, districts formed from several towns, and the irony of not having a representative from the village of Catskill, which is the county seat.

Athens Mayor David Riley, a Republican, objected to most of the plans because the town and village would share a legislative district with another community in all but two proposals.

"People in Athens would like to be represented by someone from Athens," he said. "People want to be represented by someone they know."

James Palmateer of Athens, one of only two Democrats on the 13-member Legislature, said the plans should be reviewed at more than the one additional public hearing 7 p.m. tonight at the Windham Town Hall and the 7 p.m. Feb. 4 party informational session that has been opened for public attendance at the Greene County Courthouse in Catskill.

"Among the serious changes proposed and the consequences of them are the creation of large mega-voting districts in which many small towns are grouped with larger towns, thereby diluting the voting power of citizens in those small towns," he said.

Several people objected to having the two state correctional facilities, which county officials have reported to have a combined population of 1,200 in 1999, as part of the Coxsackie population figures of 8,884 residents. Overall census information shows the county had 48,195 people in 2000 for a 7.72 percent increase of 3,456.

"Is it fair for Coxsackie to get basically two extra (legislators) because they have two prisons?" Athens resident John Houghtaling said.

Plans proposed by the Legislature, which is expected to have the districts drawn for the fall election, include:

A 14-member Legislature with a system of weighted voting based on population percentages that would have 24.59 for Catskill; 18.43 for Coxsackie; 13.19 for Cairo; 8.28 for Athens; 7.09 for New Baltimore; 6.88 for Greenville; 5.65 for Hunter; 5.38 for Durham; 3.44 for Windham: 2.01 for Jewett; 1.72 for Lexington; 1.56 for Ashland; and 0.4 for Halcott.

A 15-member Legislature that would give Catskill and Athens five members; Coxsackie, New Baltimore, and Greenville five members; Cairo, Durham and Jewett three members; and Hunter Windham, Ashland, Prattsville, Halcott, and Lexington two members.

A 22-member Legislature giving Greenville and New Baltimore three members; Coxsackie four members; Cairo three members; Catskill and Athens seven members; and Durham, Halcott, Hunter, Jewett, Lexington, Prattsville, Windham, and Ashland five members.

A 12- member Legislature in three variations of districts. Two of the plans would have Catskill not joined with other towns, while one of the plans would also have Athens as a separate district.

A nine-member Legislature that would have Greenville, New Baltimore, and Coxsackie with three members; Catskill, Athens, and Cairo with four members; and Ashland, Durham, Halcott, Hunter, Lexington, Prattsville, and Windham with two members.

The New York Times
As Districts Are Redrawn, Wary Neighbors See Odd Bedfellows
By Jim O'Grady
January 26, 2003

Fights often break out when borders are contested. And there are many borders - political, ethnic, geographic - that are involved in the city's proposal to redraw the two City Council districts that meet in Bushwick and Ridgewood at the Brooklyn-Queens border.

Other redistricting disputes have erupted around the city, notably one that centers on whether to include Chinatown in the district that covers the Lower East Side, and the city's Redistricting Commission, which is to hold additional public hearings on its plan next month, will continue to grapple with them.

But the case in Ridgewood, Queens, has been particularly bruising. Opponents of the plan, most of whom live in Ridgewood, say it is wrong to take a 20,000-person slice of their 30th District and drop it into the 34th, centered in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Bushwick is largely Latino. Ridgewood has a more mixed population of ethnic whites and Latinos, many of whom moved there recently.

"They moved from Bushwick to get away from the politics of Bushwick, which doesn't work very well," said Paul Kerzner, a lifelong Ridgewood resident and a leader in a local campaign against the redistricting plan. "They resent the fact that they're being pulled back."

Consuelo Vuolo is one. In 1991, she left Bushwick, where she had lived for 14 years and taught English as a second language at Intermediate School 291, and settled in Ridgewood. "Most of my dealings with doctors and schools for my two children were in Ridgewood," she said. "I like the area."

She and others worry that creating a council district that merges eastern Ridgewood with western Bushwick will cause their new neighborhood to turn into their old one, which they say has more crime and fewer city services.

Others opponents see dark maneuverings by Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, who is taken to be the political lord of Bushwick. Msgr. Edward B. Scharfenberger, the pastor of Saint Matthias Catholic Church in Ridgewood, said Mr. Lopez and his allies wanted to add his neighborhood to their fief.

"It is the Bushwick apparatus expanding their power by expanding into Ridgewood," he said.

Mr. Lopez countered: "I don't draw the lines. I only wish I had that type of input."

When the city redraws its lines after every census, it must ensure that all districts contains roughly the same number of people. The 34th District has grown more slowly than others in the city in the last 10 years. Therefore, Mr. Lopez said, "the city needed to find 20,000 people" for the district, and nearby Ridgewood was the natural place to get them.

He accused his opponents of race-baiting on the issue. "They say, 'We don't want the Latinos to come in, crime to come in, our insurance rates to go up,' " Mr. Lopez said. "They're trying to make it a battle."

Corbin Chooses People Over Party
By Rick Brand
January 23, 2003

Nassau Legis. Roger Corbin (D-Westbury) gave new meaning to the term "one person, one vote" last month when he shocked his own party by threatening to back a Republican plan to redraw district lines.

While the electoral concept is usually associated with giving everyone's vote equal weight, Corbin, who is part of a one-vote majority on the county legislature, in effect was brandishing a veto against his own party.

"I didn't look at it as a threat," he said. "The redistricting is critically important for us. So did I get their attention? I guess so."

Specifically, Corbin says he was concerned that the Democratic reapportionment plan would put Lakeview, a minority community, into a largely white district and dilute its political power. "If any area of my district were moved into a racially white district would an African-American have a chance to run and succeed? The answer is obviously no," he said.

Corbin's stand was the most public shot fired against Nassau Democrats' redistricting plan, and it underscores the delicate balance the party is trying to strike in what is the most partisan exercise of government power that a legislative majority takes.

Democrats, who for the first time control the once- a-decade process, need to satisfy core constituents, including blacks. They also are looking to redraw lines to help re-elect lawmakers in marginal districts where registered GOP voters predominate, while seeking to increase their majority in the legislature.

"It's a major test for the party," said one longtime party activist who asked not to be identified. "It will show whether Democrats have gotten over [their] 'not ready for prime time' image going back to the 1970s when we were always embroiled in petty squabbles that kept us from going anywhere."

Jay Jacobs, Nassau Democratic chairman, stepped lightly in reacting to Corbin's protest. "Roger has an obligation to represent his constituency, and we're good friends. I have no doubt we'll be able to work out whatever concerns he has."

What also made Corbin's public protest unexpected is that he gets a $23,000-a-year stipend as the legislature's deputy presiding officer, a post usually associated with lining up votes for the party position. Yet Corbin relishes a reputation as a maverick. "Nothing Roger ever does ever surprises me," said Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead).

However, Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) said it might have been better for Corbin to have discussed his concerns with colleagues instead of in a public forum. "This is no time for grandstanding," she said, but added, "It may just be an emotional issue for him."

Meanwhile, Republican Minority Leader Peter Schmitt calls the Democrats' plan "vicious gerrymandering" aimed only at increasing the Democratic majority without regard to how communities are split. What makes the plan so badly flawed, he added, is that Democrats brought in Albany operatives to draw the lines with no knowledge of local area.

"They see the voters as Republican and Democratic pawns," said Schmitt, arguing that that's how they ran afoul of Corbin. "They were looking to move Democrats who happened to be black. But Roger was looking at blacks who happen to be Democrats. There's a big difference."

Schmitt and Republicans maintain that the existing lines, crafted in 1995 and approved by a bipartisan board of supervisors, should remain intact. He noted that in past elections those lines have produced both Republican and Democratic majorities.

"This is a very young institution," said Schmitt. "To do major tampering at this time is not a good thing."

But Democrats maintain that when Republicans, who controlled the Board of Supervisors, first drew the boundaries of the Nassau Legislature, they jammed as many Democratic voters into as few districts as possible. They created five seats in which Democrats had a large enrollment edge and 12 seats where Republican voters dominated but where voter registration made the districts competitive.

"The Republicans say the map is obviously balanced because of the past two elections," said party leader Jacobs. "But those results only happened because the Republican machine messed up the county so badly that even their own party members abandoned them."

Jacobs said the new Democratic map creates six safe Republican seats, five safe Democratic seats and eight where registration is close enough that either side could win.

But the proposed lines will give Democratic incumbents Brian Mueller, David Denenberg and Joseph Scannell - all elected in heavily Republican districts - a stronger chance to hold their seats by moving additional Democratic voters into those districts.

The Democrats' plan also redraws the districts of Republican incumbents including Salvatore Pontillo and Norma Gonsalves to give Democrats a better chance of winning. The Democratic plan even gives some incumbent Republicans like Schmitt more Republican voters, though at the expense of some of their colleagues.

Party leader Jacobs said that since Corbin's public protest, some revisions have been made with the help of Abrahams.

Lakeview was restored to Corbin's district while a part of Hempstead that includes the campus of Hofstra University was moved into Abrahams' district from Corbin's. The party leader said experts are analyzing the new lines to determine if they comply with federal law. Republicans vow a lawsuit, if the Democratic plan violates the law.

Having raised the issue, Corbin now says he believes a workable plan can be drawn. "I'm a Democrat and always will be a Democrat and I'd never sell out to the Republicans," he said. "But I have a duty to look after my constituents."

Hickville Illustrated News
Shame on You, Mr. Schmidt
By James Keough  
January 17, 2003

For a career politician such as Mr. Schmidt to accuse other politicians of shameless behavior in redistricting gerrymandering is blatant hypocrisy.

The name of the game in politics is gerrymandering. Elected officials from both parties always draw up their districts so they have a majority (preferably 60 percent or more) of registered voters from their party in that district. This way their party's candidate rarely loses. Most voters generally don't know or care about their (local) elected officials (check the voter turnouts) and usually vote along so-called "party lines." The party's candidate usually stays in power. Be they Democratic or Republican, the parties win and the people lose.

New York State is the classic example. All State Assembly and Senate Districts, whether they are Republican or Democratic, are drawn up this way. The Democrats control the assembly and the Republicans control the senate. Both parties blame each other. Very little is accomplished, except career politicians obtain a great lifetime job with raises and perks, supported by us, the working taxpayers.

Nassau County is not too far behind. The present Nassau County Legislature lines which Mr. Schmidt is so fond of are drawn so that while parts of Old Bethpage, Bethpage, Plainview, Jericho, Syosset, Old Brookville and Oyster Bay are in my district, only half of my own block of Cliff Drive of Hicksville is included. What's wrong with this picture?

Mr. Schmidt also offends 21st century intelligence by suggesting that redistricting will not represent minority communities. ("No longer will the minority population of Nassau County have a voice that solely represents their concern.") Does he not represent minorities in his district or in Nassau County as the minority leader of the Republican Party in the Legislature?

Redistricting drawn by politicians does not work. Politicians will primarily draw districts to get re-elected. There has to be a group of honest people from all involved communities who should draw up the districts with common bonds. All of Hicksville and Bethpage could be a district. Likewise for Massapequa and Massapequa Park, Jericho and Syosset, Plainview and Woodbury, New Cassel and Westbury, etc. Districts should be drawn up by using neighborhoods, schools, community boundaries and ties as the driving forces for redistricting, not party power and voter registration as the goals.

The ultimate solution is for all citizens to become active, informed voters. Register. Vote. Then we can vote in candidates who will work for the common good and vote out those who won't. This might take a while to happen, but there's no time like the present to get started.

James Keough

The Herald
Redistricting or gerrymandering? Democratic plan would split N. Bellmore legislative districts
By Howard Goldstein
January 16, 2003

A proposal by Nassau County Democrats to redistrict most of North Bellmore, from county Legislative District 13 to 19, has met with opposition from Republicans, who believe the plan is unnecessary and politically motivated.

The Nassau Temporary District Advisory Commission, comprising five Democrats, five Republicans and a non-voting chairperson, was set up to recommend new district lines for the county Legislature, as required by law. The commission, however, made no recommendation to the Legislature, as the two plans that it put forth respectively by Democrats and Republicans were both deadlocked in a vote along party lines.

The Democratic plan, citing changes in population, redrew the lines of all 19 voting districts, while the Republican plan shifted only a few boundaries in six districts.

Redistricting was deemed necessary after U.S. Census figures showed an increase in population in a few districts, mostly in District Two, that far exceeded the county average.

To ascertain the number of citizens per district, the county-wide population is divided by 19. According to a state Supreme Court ruling, the number is permitted to be 5 percent above or below average to maintain neighborhood integrity.

District Two now exceeds the average by more than 12 percent.

According to the district proposal put forth by the Democratic Commissioners, North Bellmore, now mostly in Norma Gonsalves' 13th District, would be redistricted with Bellmore in David Denenberg's 19th District.

According to Steve Lester, a Democrat on the commission, the most important factor in redistricting is "the one person, one vote" principle that necessitates the districts being more or less evenly populated.

"As a result of shifting the boundaries for overpopulated districts, many other districts had to be redrawn," he said.

"The changes in North Bellmore came about primarily from public hearings in which considerable evidence was presented that the people of North Bellmore want to be grouped with Bellmore, as they are one community," Lester said.

John Kiernan, a Republican who served on the commission, said Democrats wanted to radically redraw every line in the county, when in reality only a few boundary shifts were necessary to bring overpopulated District Two within legal limits.

"Districts One and Two, both in need of redistricting, are strongly Democratic minority districts, but the Democratic plan threw pieces of these districts into Republican areas to make those districts more Democratic," Kiernan said.

Kiernan said there is no legal reason to change the 13 of the 19 districts that are within the county average.

"There is no reason to break up North Bellmore and divide it among two legislators," Kiernan said about the Democratic proposal. "It is merely part of a county-wide gerrymandering effort."

Denenberg (D-Merrick) has mixed feelings about the possibility of redistricting North Bellmore.

"On one hand, I'm very excited about the prospect of legislating for North Bellmore and being able to think about the Bellmores as a whole community, " said Denenberg, who now legislates for Bellmore, "but I am also upset about the prospect of leaving Seaford and Wantagh [currently part of District 19, which would be reassigned], communities I've long worked with. After all the projects in those communities, it would be rough to not get to be their legislator any longer."

Denenberg also cited public testimony at the hearings held last fall that indicated a strong interest in uniting the Bellmores.

"The goal is to have neighborhoods spread into fewer districts," he said, "and the Bellmores and Merricks share a high school district. The county wants to keep school district lines and legislative district lines similar."

Despite the commission submitting no recommendation, a plan must be approved by March, and the county Legislature has complete power over what plan becomes law. Even if a plan had been approved by the commission, it would only be a recommendation and would in no way bind the Legislature.

Although the Legislature is now Democratic-led 10-9, it is unlikely that the original plan put forth by Democrats will pass unamended.

Democrats Roger Corbin, of District Two, and Kevan Abrams, of District One, have openly opposed the Democratic plan that moves parts of their minority districts into other areas.

If the Democratic majority, however, can propose an amended plan acceptable to Corbin and Abrams, they have an excellent chance of passing something similar to the original proposal.

Republicans have also complained that the Democratic plan is vague at best and the map indiscernible.

Joe Scaleri, Republican deputy director minority appointee to the commission, said the map is inadequate. "The Democratic map is a map of the county with lines, but shows no details, and the Democrats have refused to release their data for their guess work," he said.

Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) agrees that the map is unclear.

"According to the map, it is very difficult to determine what would be in District 13 or 19. It's hard to read with no boundaries," she said.

Gonsalves noted the lack of a commission recommendation and described the redistricting process as a " at a standstill." She would offer no other comment at this time.

Scaleri also said that the claim by Democrats that only two new districts have been given a new Democratic edge is misleading because it would potentially bump the number of Democratic seats from 10 to 12. These new lines would be law until the next redistricting, which could be years away.

But Democrats say that Republican concern over districting objectivity is disingenuous.

"Republicans want the lines to stay the same, because they drew those lines in the first place," Denenberg said.

The current district lines were originally drawn up by a Republican-dominated Legislature. When federal Judge Arthur Spatt ruled that the Nassau Board of Supervisors had to be replaced by a legislature in 1993, a measure made law by public referendum in 1994, 15 of the 19 districts were Republican.

"The actual proposal is not 'vague,' and clearly outlines the legislative districts. The Democrat plan is aimed at keeping school districts and communities together, while accommodating the population growth of some areas," said Denenberg.

He also noted that the needs of minority neighborhoods led by Corbin and Abrams would help determine changes that Democrats would likely propose to the original plan.

According to Democrats and some residents, the splitting of North Bellmore would keep the Bellmores together as one community. It would also unite East Meadow under Norma Gonsalves.

Republicans and some other residents consider the measure to be breaking up the community of North Bellmore.

Bill Christensen, president of the North Bellmore Civic Association, has reservations about splitting North Bellmore. "We have a long and close association with Norma Gonsalves," he said. "She is a real advocate for North Bellmore, has long been our legislator, has worked heavily with the civic association, and we don't want to lose her as our legislator.

"The majority of people from my group who voiced an opinion did not approve of any plan that removed Norma from North Bellmore. Of course, other members of the community like the idea of keeping the Bellmores together. "

Christensen added that he is not at all upset at the prospect of having Denenberg as a legislator.

"It's not that we don't want Dave, just that we don't want to lose Norma. Dave is also a good friend of North Bellmore, and has often worked with us on many important initiatives."

Richard Schary, of North Bellmore, who has worked closely with Gonsalves in developing a hiking/bicycling path through the Bellmore-Wantagh area, is adamantly opposed to splitting North Bellmore in two.

"In North Bellmore," he said, "we have two Assembly districts, two state Senate districts, we have two Congressional districts. We even have two town districts...Because we have only one legislative district, we don't want to lose it."

The 13th Legislative District, he said, provides North Bellmore with a "sense of identity."

ITAL -Scott Brinton contributed to this story. UNITAL

The Herald
Gerrymandering charged: Legislature split on redistricting
By Angela Marshall
January 9, 2003

For the past seven years, the entire history of the Nassau County Legislature, Rockville Centre's West End residents have been represented by Roger Corbin (D-Westbury). That may soon change.

Half of the Nassau County Temporary Districting Commission, created last year to recommend changes to the county's 19 legislative districts, is promoting a plan to remove that one district from Corbin's authority and place it with the rest of the village in the hands of Joseph Scannell (D-Baldwin).

That is just one of several boundaries the five Democratic members of the commission believe should be changed to comply with the one person, one vote standard. The five Republican members of the commission disagree and have come up with a different plan, which makes few changes to the current boundaries but, they say, still complies with the law.

The committee was to have made a recommendation to the legislature last week, but the members were unable to come up with a compromise plan. The 11th member of the commission, chairperson Barbara Patton, was not allowed to vote.

Both plans will now go before the Democrat-led legislature, but a lock on the changes is not certain. Corbin, according to high-ranking officials, does not want to give up some of the areas the Democrats have targeted for change and has threatened to vote with Republicans. He could not be reached for comment.

Minority Leader Peter Schmitt called the Democratic plan vicious gerrymandering, done to improve the party's chances in future elections. Schmitt pointed to the fact that there have been two Republican-led and two Democrat-led legislatures during that body's seven-year history as evidence that the current boundaries already comply with the one person, one vote standard.

The district boundaries were drawn by a bipartisan commission formed by U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt in 1994.

Every 10 years, following the U.S. census, population shifts are to be studied and the district lines redrawn to make sure an equal number of residents live in each district and that minority voting power is not diluted. Schmitt believes that by removing the West End residents from the county's minority district, District 2, represented by Corbin, the Democrats are doing just that.

Scannell defended the Democratic plan, saying Corbin's area has 10,000 more people than it should and that the one person, one vote standard requires a change in boundaries. He's got to lose 10,000, Scannell said. We're forced, really, by constitutional law.

Each district should have about 70,000 residents if the new boundaries are to stand up in court, Scannell continued.

The 5th legislative district has about 19,000 registered Republican voters and 11,000 registered Democratic voters. The West End election district would add about 500 registered Democrats to the 5th district, according to Scannell. Nothing that would have any real effect, he said.

The Legislature has until March 4 to enact new boundaries.

The New York Times
Dissenter Imperils Democrats' Plan to Tighten Grip on Nassau Legislature
By Bruce Lambert
January 3, 2003

GARDEN CITY, N.Y.� Democratic hoopes of strengthening a tenuous hold on the Nassau County Legislature by redrawing the district lines are suddenly jeopardized by the rebellion of one of the party's own legislators.

The Legislature's deputy presiding officer, Roger Corbin, said he would refuse to vote for the new map drafted by Democratic aides. Mr. Corbin, one of two black legislators in Nassau, contended that the changes would weaken his district by moving some black neighborhoods to other districts.

His opposition poses a political quandary for the Democrats, who control the Legislature 10 to 9. Without his vote, they no longer have a majority to adopt the redistricting they so desperately want.

Party leaders predicted that Mr. Corbin, who has played the maverick role before, would eventually fall into line. His office said he was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

Underscoring the partisan maneuvering, the Legislature's appointed panel on redistricting deadlocked at a meeting here today and gave up on efforts to reach an agreement, and as a result will fail to recommend a new map by the Saturday deadline set by the county charter. The final decision on the map is up to the Legislature.

Much of today's testy debate focused on the Second District that Mr. Corbin represents, which cuts a jagged diagonal from Westbury to Lakeview in central Nassau.

The Republicans contended that the Democratic proposal would reduce the number of black voters in that district and thus violate federal voting rights standards. "The people who are being removed are being disenfranchised," said the leader of the Republican panelists, John Kiernan.

The leader of the Democratic members, Matthew Cuomo, replied, "You can't be serious." He said the change would be minuscule, less than 1 percent of black voters, and would be more than offset by an increase in Hispanic voters. Changes are necessary because the Second District's population has grown more than other districts'.

Mr. Cuomo's motion to submit both parties' maps to the Legislature failed on a tie vote, as did Mr. Kiernan's motion to endorse the Republican map. Each side will informally give its map to allies in the Legislature.

The legislators face a March 4 deadline to adopt a new map. They could approve either of the maps drafted so far, an amended version or an entirely new one.

For the first time since the World War I era, Democrats won a majority in the Legislature in 1999, an upset that surprised even them. They retained their slender 10-9 advantage last November.

This year the charter requires reapportionment based on the new census, and the Democrats hope to solidify and even expand their grip. Their map shifts the boundaries to spread out some of the Democratic voters, who are concentrated in a few districts in the current map.

Mr. Corbin was on the commission that set up the current lines and insisted on the creation of the minority Second District, then won election to that seat. He also aspired to become the presiding officer but settled for the deputy post.

The presiding officer, Judith A. Jacobs, criticized Mr. Corbin's recent comments as premature. "This is not a time for speaking out and grandstanding," but rather for studying the maps and data, she said. She also called for party unity, "otherwise you're no longer the majority."

The Nassau Democratic Party chairman, Jay Jacobs, said he respected Mr. Corbin's sensitivity to his constituents, but added: "Roger's position may require some adjustment. We've been a team for a long time."

Protest backfired in Ridgewood council fight: Commish
By Dustin Brown
January 2, 2003

Ridgewood residents may have undermined their own cause when they passionately argued against the neighborhood�s division between two city council districts, a member of the city Districting Commission said.

Despite Ridgewood�s overwhelming opposition to the proposed boundaries, some residents have come out in favor of the new lines for uniting two neighborhoods with common interests that cross the Queens-Brooklyn border.

But a far more vocal contingent from the community denounced the plan at the New York City Districting Commission�s Queens public hearing in November, which is why some local leaders reacted with dismay last month when the commission approved a second draft of the council map without restoring the southern part of Ridgewood to Councilman Dennis Gallagher�s (R-Middle Village) 30th District.

The map, which went on to the City Council for comment, pushes north the boundary of Councilwoman Diana Reyna�s (D-Brooklyn) 34th District to include a section of Ridgewood in the area that also covers Bushwick.

Karen Burstein, a former state senator who sits on the 15-member Districting Commission, said the community�s strong showing at the hearing was powerful but ultimately backfired when those who testified repeatedly cited fears that the commissioners deemed unfounded.

�It appeared that some of the people came under a very serious misimpression about the consequences of council redistricting,� Burstein said in a phone interview last week. �You don�t lose your zip code. You don�t stop being in Queens. Your property values are not determined by where your council district is.�

Burstein�s comments drew ire from state Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood), who said concerns about interborough boundary changes for school districts or community boards have merit.

�I believe that it is patronizing and condescending of the commission to characterize anyone�s objection,� Nolan said. �No one knows what will happen in two, three or five years regarding school districts or libraries ... I think they�re legitimate concerns.�

Central to the commission�s decision was the basic need to maintain standard sizes of council districts because the 2000 Census showed western Queens� population having grown far more rapidly than that of Brooklyn. Somewhere a council district had to cross the Queens-Brooklyn border, and the Ridgewood-Bushwick junction simply made the most sense, the commission concluded.

�The way the lines are currently drawn brings together a community that is similar on many levels � economically, educationally,� said Richard Wager, a spokesman for the commission. �Those are people that shop in the same places, go to the same service providers.�

The boundary also brings the largely Hispanic population of southern Ridgewood into Reyna�s Hispanic-majority district, the commission said.

Meanwhile, passions continued to burn on high even after the commission passed its draft on to the Council, which must submit its comments by early January before more public hearings are held and the U.S. Justice Department reviews the final plans.

An anonymous flier sharply criticizing Nolan�s fight against the new council lines was sent to the Times Ledger offices last Thursday with a forged return address on the envelope listing Nolan�s office location below the misspelled name of Karl Wilhelm, one of her allies.

Wilhelm, an officer with the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association, said he did not send it himself and had no idea who could have. The envelope was postmarked in Brooklyn.

�We lost, and yet they still want to go in the gutter with anonymous letters,� Nolan said. �It just says to me how wrong- headed the whole thing is and how it�s not about neighborhoods.�

The letter accused Nolan of following a double standard by fighting the division of Ridgewood�s council districts after allowing part of the neighborhood to be excised from her own assembly district last year and placed into Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio�s (D-Richmond Hill) district.

But Nolan said her opposition to the council lines stems from the Ridgewood�s split between two boroughs, not two representatives.

�I never made an issue of that. Why would I? It�s still Queens,� she said of the assembly lines. �Also, a city council district is completely different because it�s really the local unit.�

For her part, Reyna spoke at the Districting Commission�s Manhattan public hearing in early December to defend her record bringing significant improvements to Bushwick.

�If I do represent Ridgewood in the future, it should go without saying I�ll work just as hard for this area as I have for every other area in my district,� Reyna said.

Other Ridgewood residents also backed the new lines at the Manhattan hearing.

�This year we have an opportunity to unite these populations, joining groups of mutual interests and ensuring that all Latinos are represented in the City Council,� said Zully Rolan, a housing advocate from Ridgewood.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at [email protected] or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.


      of page

Copyright � 2000 The Center for Voting and Democracy
6930 Carroll Ave. Suite 610    Takoma Park, MD  20912
(301) 270-4616 ____ [email protected]