Community and civic leaders on Tuesday panned a new town council redistricting map released by Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine that they said was just slightly different from previous plans that would have split communities and diluted minority votes.
The map, posted Monday on the town's redistricting website, made some alterations from three maps that had been rejected last week by an eight-member town committee. While some leaders said the new map was an improvement, they renewed objections expressed during the summer that too many hamlets would be divided among two or more council districts.
"They basically have diluted the vote to where you wouldn't be able to have people of color to have their interests represented on the town council," Gordon Heights Civic Association president E. James Freeman said Tuesday. The mostly Black hamlet is in Council District 4, which would add part of majority-white Ridge under Romaine's proposal.
"It's disheartening to learn that with all the work that we've done to work with the town in an honorable manner that the Republicans have decided to go to voter suppression," Freeman said.
The town board has scheduled a public hearing for 5 p.m. on Sept. 29 at Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville to receive public comment on the proposed map. It's not clear when the town board will vote.
Any map adopted by the board could help shape town council elections for the next 10 years. Republicans hold a 6-1 majority on the board.
The Republican-majority town board must adopt a new map by Dec. 15.
Town spokesman Kevin Molloy said 90% of Brookhaven residents would see no change in their council representatives, adding the number of split communities would drop from 13 to 10. The proposed map would, for the first time, unite North Bellport, a largely minority hamlet, in a single council district, he said.
Coram, a racially and ethnically diverse community currently split among four council districts, would see 66% of its residents living in a single district, Molloy said.
"[The map does] not dilute minority representation," Molloy told Newsday. "In fact, it strengthens it."
Reapportionment is required because 2020 federal census data showed the populations of two Brookhaven council districts — Districts 2 and 6 — are out of balance with the other four. All districts must be within 5% of about 81,000 residents, or about one-sixth of Brookhaven's total population of 475,000.
Logan Mazer of Coram, an at-large member of the Brookhaven Democratic executive committee, said Tuesday Romaine's map appeared to be aimed at improving the reelection chances of Republicans while boosting the GOP's chances of ousting the town board's lone Democrat, District 1 Councilman Jonathan Kornreich.
"Disappointed would be a nice way of saying it," said Mazer, who had submitted a map to the committee.
Ali Nazir, the now-disbanded redistricting committee's Republican co-chair, said Romaine's proposal "most complies with town, state and federal law by any objective standard."
Some residents of Terryville and Port Jefferson Station said they objected to Romaine's plan because it would shift parts of the adjoining communities from District 1 to District 2.
"It doesn't make sense for us," Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Chamber of Commerce vice president Paul Perrone told Newsday. "We're not really going to be represented."
Coram Civic Association vice president Kareem Nugdalla told Newsday while he liked some aspects of Romaine's plan, it would keep Coram split among four districts.
"The fact that our main street business area was split three different ways and now it's mostly split in two different ways ... doesn’t make any sense," Nugdalla said Monday.