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Nassau County Talks Redistricting In Glen Cove

Public hearing held to discuss drawing new lines

A Nassau County Districting Advisory Commission public hearing was held on Sept. 27 at the Landing Elementary School in Glen Cove, which was the second meeting in a series to hear concerns from different communities before adjusting Nassau County’s voting lines by January 5, 2013. With two sets of commissioners consisting of five Republicans and five Democrats, Chairperson Francis X. Moroney is the one nonvoting member appointed by Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano.

“The purpose of these hearings are so we can hear your suggestions as to what you may, or may not want to see in a map,” Moroney said. Before opening the hearing up the public, Moroney gave a background on the process of redistricting.

Set up in 1994, the commission can only act by six votes. The commission itself was the suggestion of the former Town of North Hempstead Supervisor May Newburger, who passed away last month, and was drafted by Moroney (who was then director of the Charter Revision Commission) and former chairman of the Charter Revision Commission John Kiernan.

Each side of commissioners acts independently, and can go about the task of drawing new lines. “Hopefully at some point, the two sides will come together and  have discussions,” Moroney explained. “The two sides are only limited by the United States Constitution, the Voting Rights Act, and other redistricting laws.”

There must be substantially the same number of people in each district, which in Nassau County after the 2010 census is an optimal amount of 70,502 per district. “Each district has to be compact, contiguous (in contact, touching) and fairly represent identifiable communities of interest,” said Moroney.

A community of interest can be based on geography, sub-divisions of government, villages, school district, cities and others. “There will no doubt be conflicts in testimony between various individuals in different parts of the county as they define their communities of interest…each person has their own concept of what their community is,” Moroney said. “After the meetings, work is turned over to the respective commissioners so they can go about their business of drawing maps.”

One of the Democratic commissioners, Bonnie Garone, spoke briefly following Moroney’s remarks. “The people coming to these meetings are experts in redistricting in their own right…they have worked in the area for many years,” Garone said.

Garone explained that 50 years ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled that every municipality must adjust their voting lines every 10 years. Nassau County has 19 legislative districts (with Glen Cove in the 18th district) and lines were drawn last in 2003. “We are required to see if the population in these districts are equal…every 10 years, there is a census, and that data informs this process.”

In addition to population, the commission is looking for what makes an area a ‘community.’ Census geography will be used to draw the map, which divides Nassau County into 98 CDPs (Census Designated Places).

A total of 12 speakers were heard, with an almost universal ideal that the community values and interests of Glen Cove are unique to other areas. Barbara Sullivan-Parry and Cynthia Kouril are Long Island Regional Co-Chairs for the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, and both addressed the board. Kouril, a resident of Glen Cove, expressed her concern involving the use of the beach front in Glen Cove. She based her concerns over a map that was proposed by Nassau County Legislator Peter Schmitt in 2011, which the commission was advised to not use, according to Moroney.

“That map unites us with people living in Plainview, Woodbury and Jericho, who do not share our interests,” Kouril said. “I walk to the beach every day, someone in Plainview might come to our beaches once a year…the people that live up here have a shared culture that you don’t find in too many other places, and by breaking us up, you break up that culture.”

Barbara Sullivan-Parry, a resident of Oyster Bay, expressed her concern over what will be done with her hometown’s districting lines. “From what I understand, the district will be drastically altered, and stretched out across the north shore,” Sullivan-Parry said. “That seems very illogical, and not representative of our community.”

Democratic Commissioner David Mejias responded briefly by explaining that many residents in Oyster Bay use the Syosset Train Station, and travel along roads such as Jericho Turnpike. “There is a unity of interest between Woodbury, Syosset, Jericho and Oyster Bay,” Mejias said.

Mejias also mentioned that a prime concern of the commission is waterfront properties. “The City of Glen Cove has one of the county’s biggest developments on the waterfront,” Mejias said. “That particular development will have a dramatic impact on the entire waterfront, which includes Glenwood Landing, Glen Head, Sea Cliff, Glen Cove, Locust Valley, Lattingtown and Bayville…that entire area deserves to have one legislator the residents can go to.”

Glen Cove resident Janet Blatt urged the commission to consider the people’s testimonies and concerns. “It is the interest of the people that should be the concern of the drawing of this map, not politicians,” Blatt said. “It would be nice, that this time around, the maps were drawn with the concerns of the people in mind.”

Glen Cove resident Andrew Lawrence stated that the current district lines are working fine, and said, “What isn’t broken, don’t fix.” Lawrence called for the commission to “tweak the lines as you see necessary in those districts that might have those population shifts, which seem to be in more central Nassau County than on the north shore.” He also shared earlier sentiments in the hearing that the map by Peter Schmitt did not accurately reflect the Glen Cove community, and urged the commission not to replicate it in their map.

Henry Boitel addressed the commission on their website, which Boitel expressed disapproval of at their previous meeting as well. Boitel called for information on the website to show where population shifts have occurred, “Right now all people can say is ‘be fair’ and ‘don’t break up our community,’ which doesn’t say very much…there should be information available on your website so people can make constructive suggestions as to how they can be solved,” said Boitel.

Representing Dr. Nancy Rosenthal from the League of Women Voters, Paula Blum addressed the commission, who is a resident of Wantagh.  Echoing ideas previously expressed, Blum stated, “Incumbents are not a community of interest.”  Blum also encouraged the board to devise only one map, as it is possible for the commission to draw multiple maps.

Kimberly Snow, a resident of Woodbury for over 20 years, has worked in county, federal, city and town government.  Represented by Legislator Judy Jacobs, Snow said, “Having one legislator to turn to is a major benefit.”  While Snow has friends in Glen Cove and thinks highly of the town, Snow said, “Glen Cove is a beautiful town, but is not on my consciousness in terms of my community.”

The next redistricting meeting will take place on Oct. 9 at Hempstead Town Hall at 6 p.m., 1 Washington St. in Hempstead.