Hempstead OKs new district map amid debate

Hempstead Town Hall Plaza is at 1 Washington Hempstead Town Hall Plaza is at 1 Washington St. Photo Credit: J.C. Cherubini, 2011

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The Republican-controlled Hempstead Town board approved Tuesday by a 5-1 margin a controversial six-district councilmanic map -- after a contentious hearing during which opponents accused town officials of gerrymandering, lacking consideration for minority communities, and disfranchising voters.

The new map will set voting districts for America's largest township for the next decade, starting with November's town elections. GOP Councilman James Darcy was the only no vote. Supervisor Kate Murray was absent.

Darcy, whose district lost part of the Five Towns area, did not return calls for comment.

"These maps are equal population districts as required by law," senior Councilman Anthony Santino said.

Democrats say they plan to go to court to fight the new map's adoption. The Democrats' proposed map called for two minority-majority districts, keeping the Five Towns area together and putting the bulk of seaside communities in one district. "We will spend more time arguing about this in a court of law," town Democratic Committee first deputy leader Bob Young said during the hearing.

League of Women Voters of East Nassau co-president Barbara Epstein cited census figures showing the town's white population decreased by 12.6 percent from 2000 to 2010, while the black population grew 10.7 percent and the Hispanic population increased 52.5 percent -- while the town's overall population grew 0.5 percent.

"There should be a second minority-majority district, period," Epstein said.

Town Attorney Joseph Ra responded, "Looking at the population changes, we did not see an opportunity to create a second minority-majority, mostly African-American district. It would have diluted District 1."

The town's plan for District 1 -- represented by the board's lone Democrat, Dorothy Goosby -- includes Lakeview, Hempstead, Uniondale, Roosevelt and a small portion of Baldwin and Freeport.

Goosby, the first African-American woman on the town board, explained her support by saying the town's proposal made minor changes to the districts and added she had no input on the Democrats' map. She complained about the removal from her district of the Museum Row area labeled "East Garden City" by the town; angry residents of Uniondale said Tuesday the area is part of their hamlet.

Aubrey Phillips, of Elmont, complained the map grouped Elmont with more affluent communities such as Floral Park and Garden City in District 2. "The map dilutes the voting power of communities like Elmont," he said. "Thousands of people now know that your voice is not representative of their voice."

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