Panel OKs Republican-drawn map for new Nassau districts

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The Nassau County Legislature's Rules Committee Monday approved a Republican-drawn map for new legislative districts despite criticism that it will split minority and other communities.

The 4-3 party line vote sent the plan to the GOP-controlled legislature, which is expected to approve it on Feb. 25.

Jane Thomas, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Nassau County, testified that the Five Towns area -- Hewlett, Woodmere, Inwood, Lawrence and Cedarhurst -- would be broken up into four separate legislative districts.

"Fundamental to redistricting is having districts that are compact, contiguous and reflect communities of interest," Thomas told the committee.

Frank Moroney, a top aide to the GOP majority and former chairman of the advisory board on redistricting, said the map meets all "Constitutional, Voting Rights Act and other legal standards of traditional districting."

The plan would place six incumbents -- four Democrats and two Republicans -- into three districts.

None of the six has said he or she would challenge a colleague, and two Democrats said they are considering running for higher office.

The redistricting commission, with five Republicans and five Democrats, could not agree on a map. Legislative Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), with the help of redistricting commission staff, Moroney and others, ended up putting the map together.

Gonsalves told the audience at the Rules Committee: "We did not ignore the testimony from the hearings and we did not ignore the legal ramifications involved.

"Most of the public suggestions were followed and that forced changes that you might not want to see," Moroney told Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport). "When you make some people happy, you make others unhappy."

Hempstead Village Mayor Wayne Hall, a Democratic member of the commission, asked that 7,600 village residents not be made a part of the 14th Legislative District centered in Bethpage.

"Please listen to what we have to say," he said.

Frederick Brewington, a Hempstead lawyer active in civil rights issues, said, "If this map is approved, we'll take it to court."

Gonsalves said: "The testimony taken here will be looked at very closely."

Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) substituted for Rules Committee member Legis. Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence), who monitored the redistricting hearing from his seat on the dais. Kopel said he had to leave before the vote to attend a niece's wedding in Brooklyn and didn't want Republicans to be short a vote.

With Celeste Hadrick

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