The final redistricting hearing of the Nassau County Legislature on...

The final redistricting hearing of the Nassau County Legislature on Monday in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A new map of Nassau County's 19 legislative districts was adopted Monday night after hours of public testimony and spirited debate among lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.

The vote was 11-7, along party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats against.  

The vote is the culmination of more than six months of public and expert testimony —  often confrontational and emotional —  in 15 meetings in every town in the county.  

The redrawing of the county legislative boundaries happens once every 10 years and could impact the results of future elections and the governmental priorities of communities. 

Democrats say the new map puts two members of their caucus — Joshua Lafazan and Arnold Drucker — in the same district. It also puts their caucus leader Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) in a slightly more Republican-performing district. 

Republicans say Legis. Laura Schaefer (R-Westbury) will no longer have a district and Legis. William Gaylor (R-Lynbrook) will have a more competitive district that includes more enrolled Democrats. 

"It's a fair map to start off with, and in this era you have to comply with all sorts of not only federal laws but state laws as well with respect to redistricting. We drew a map that was designed to meet those criteria," said Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park). 

Nicolello and other members of the Republican majority said the map, filed on Feb. 21, creates "fair-fight" districts of equal population without favoring any one party or incumbent and makes every effort to keep neighboring communities of similar interest whole.  

But Democrats contend the new map will break up minority districts to diffuse their power. They wanted to create five districts that are majority-minority. 

Democratic Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said his caucus does not believe the map is legal because it does not incorporate the proper measurement of election results in each district.

He compared the Republicans' expert study of election cycles to a workweek commuting traffic study performed on a Saturday.  

"It's a shame. I do not see a case in which this map will not be challenged in court," said Abrahams, noting county taxpayers would pay for legal fees of both parties in any lawsuit. "We are proceeding down a path that can be litigated against us." 

In a heated midday hearing, Nicolello and Abrahams traded barbs and accused  each other of attempting a "reckless" gerrymander for political gain. 

The final vote Monday night comes more than a month after legislators considered two maps submitted by their 11-member advisory committee. Five members of the committee were appointed by Republicans and five were appointed by Democrats; a nonvoting chairman was appointed by the Republican county executive.  

Nicolello said legislators drew their own map based on the work of the commission. He said he believed it would clear any legal challenges and noted Democrats have an enrollment edge in 15 of the new 19 districts.

Abrahams disagreed and said election results rather than enrollment is better measure.  

"This issue with making changes to a map is that once you change anything, something else has to be changed," Nicolello said. 

The temporary advisory committee was charged with hiring map experts who considered various aspects of redistricting including voting trends, racial representation, geography, legal compliance and public preferences. Both sides hired their own experts. 

Republicans currently hold an 11-7 majority on the 19-seat legislature. A special election Tuesday in the 19th district will determine who will fill the vacant seat of Steve Rhoads, a Republican who became a state senator earlier this year.

Before Rhoads stepped down the county legislature was 12-7 Republican. The two candidates vying to fill the rest of Rhoads' term would represent a different district under the new map. 

Among the communities most vocal about its new boundaries is the 6,000-resident hamlet of Lakeview, located in the Town of Hempstead.

A nearly 70% African-American community, residents told lawmakers in public hearings their vote would be diluted under the new configuration, which places them into a primarily Caucasian district with voters from Malverne and Lynbrook. 

Scottie Coads, chairperson of the Lakeview NAACP, said members of her community attended meetings in the beginning of the process and are still advocating for changes. 

"And we are here at the end of the hearings begging for you to keep us together," Coads said. "Are you that hungry for power that you would tear our community apart?" 

Legis. John Ferretti (R-Levittown) said he believes the map was one "that was created by all of us." He and others noted several amendments from the Democratic caucus that Republicans have considered such as request to keep the minority-majority communities of New Cassel and Westbury together. 

A new map of Nassau County's 19 legislative districts was adopted Monday night after hours of public testimony and spirited debate among lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.

The vote was 11-7, along party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats against.  

The vote is the culmination of more than six months of public and expert testimony —  often confrontational and emotional —  in 15 meetings in every town in the county.  

The redrawing of the county legislative boundaries happens once every 10 years and could impact the results of future elections and the governmental priorities of communities. 

Democrats say the new map puts two members of their caucus — Joshua Lafazan and Arnold Drucker — in the same district. It also puts their caucus leader Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) in a slightly more Republican-performing district. 

Republicans say Legis. Laura Schaefer (R-Westbury) will no longer have a district and Legis. William Gaylor (R-Lynbrook) will have a more competitive district that includes more enrolled Democrats. 

"It's a fair map to start off with, and in this era you have to comply with all sorts of not only federal laws but state laws as well with respect to redistricting. We drew a map that was designed to meet those criteria," said Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park). 

Nicolello and other members of the Republican majority said the map, filed on Feb. 21, creates "fair-fight" districts of equal population without favoring any one party or incumbent and makes every effort to keep neighboring communities of similar interest whole.  

But Democrats contend the new map will break up minority districts to diffuse their power. They wanted to create five districts that are majority-minority. 

Democratic Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said his caucus does not believe the map is legal because it does not incorporate the proper measurement of election results in each district.

He compared the Republicans' expert study of election cycles to a workweek commuting traffic study performed on a Saturday.  

"It's a shame. I do not see a case in which this map will not be challenged in court," said Abrahams, noting county taxpayers would pay for legal fees of both parties in any lawsuit. "We are proceeding down a path that can be litigated against us." 

In a heated midday hearing, Nicolello and Abrahams traded barbs and accused  each other of attempting a "reckless" gerrymander for political gain. 

The final vote Monday night comes more than a month after legislators considered two maps submitted by their 11-member advisory committee. Five members of the committee were appointed by Republicans and five were appointed by Democrats; a nonvoting chairman was appointed by the Republican county executive.  

Nicolello said legislators drew their own map based on the work of the commission. He said he believed it would clear any legal challenges and noted Democrats have an enrollment edge in 15 of the new 19 districts.

Abrahams disagreed and said election results rather than enrollment is better measure.  

"This issue with making changes to a map is that once you change anything, something else has to be changed," Nicolello said. 

The temporary advisory committee was charged with hiring map experts who considered various aspects of redistricting including voting trends, racial representation, geography, legal compliance and public preferences. Both sides hired their own experts. 

Republicans currently hold an 11-7 majority on the 19-seat legislature. A special election Tuesday in the 19th district will determine who will fill the vacant seat of Steve Rhoads, a Republican who became a state senator earlier this year.

Before Rhoads stepped down the county legislature was 12-7 Republican. The two candidates vying to fill the rest of Rhoads' term would represent a different district under the new map. 

Among the communities most vocal about its new boundaries is the 6,000-resident hamlet of Lakeview, located in the Town of Hempstead.

A nearly 70% African-American community, residents told lawmakers in public hearings their vote would be diluted under the new configuration, which places them into a primarily Caucasian district with voters from Malverne and Lynbrook. 

Scottie Coads, chairperson of the Lakeview NAACP, said members of her community attended meetings in the beginning of the process and are still advocating for changes. 

"And we are here at the end of the hearings begging for you to keep us together," Coads said. "Are you that hungry for power that you would tear our community apart?" 

Legis. John Ferretti (R-Levittown) said he believes the map was one "that was created by all of us." He and others noted several amendments from the Democratic caucus that Republicans have considered such as request to keep the minority-majority communities of New Cassel and Westbury together. 

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