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Loss of NY House seats unlikely to hurt LI

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, talks with reporters

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, talks with reporters during a news conference at the Capitol in Albany. (March 25, 2011) Credit: AP

The downstate region is "just as likely" as slower-growing western New York to lose a congressional seat when districts are redrawn next year, an analysis of 2010 Census results has found.

New York grew 2.1 percent since 2000, reaching a population of 19,378,102, but its growth was outstripped by other states, especially in the West and South. As a result, New York will lose two of its 29 House seats.

The question now is where -- and whether Long Island will be affected.

The "conventional wisdom" is that upstate is where both seats will be taken away, said Steven Romalewski, director of the City University of New York's Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research, which did the analysis. "But when you look at the population numbers," he said, "I think it's just as likely that the downstate area would lose a seat as western New York."

Stanley Klein, a political science professor at Long Island University's C.W. Post Campus, doesn't foresee an impact on the Island. The squeeze is more likely to be imposed on congressional districts in Manhattan and Brooklyn that have populations "well under the average," he said.

Redistricting is based on what the population was on April 1, 2010. "So even if an area had a steep drop in population, the more important issue is how many people they have now -- and how many congressional districts that population can sustain," Romalewski said.

Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group said the analysis is similar to his group's findings. "Even though it's counterintuitive, downstate -- where there are [population] increases -- could lose a congressional seat," he said.

According to CUNY, the downstate region -- defined as Long Island and the five boroughs -- has enough population to sustain 15 districts, not the current 16. With two fewer districts statewide, the "target" average size of each district would likely rise from 655,344 people to 717,707, the analysis found.

Marist College pollster Lee Miringoff said political considerations could affect redistricting. "We're going to see how the political forces line up, as well as the shifting population," he said, noting that one option is to eliminate an open seat, should that occur. But Miringoff had a broader concern: New York's diminishing political clout: "The net effect is not good for New York at all."

The analysis forecasts no change for Long Island in the state Senate and possibly one more Assembly seat.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wants an independent commission to oversee the redrawing of congressional and state legislative district boundaries.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has introduced Cuomo's measure, and the Senate recently passed a constitutional amendment for a commission to redraw political districts in 2022.

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