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Suffolk redistricting plan criticized

Majority Democrats in the Suffolk Legislature are circulating a new reapportionment map that they say lumps no incumbents into the same district and helps lawmakers in both parties.

However, some Republican lawmakers labeled the effort as partisan, saying they had no role in drawing the lines after a nonpartisan redistricting commission failed to meet its February deadline to produce new lines. They also said the new maps too often split communities into several legislative districts.

In the biggest change, the plan would move the Town of Shelter Island from the district of Legis. Edward P. Romaine (R-Center Moriches) to that of Legis. Jay H. Schneiderman (I-Montauk).

Freshman GOP Legis. Tom Cilmi would lose about a quarter of his district in his home area of Bay Shore, where he is best known. He would pick up a new area in Hauppauge and a small part of Brookhaven. Legis. Steve Stern, a Dix Hills Democrat, would pick up heavily Democratic minority areas of North Bay Shore and Brentwood in a new district that resembles the shape of a bulldozer.

Terry Pearsall, the top aide to legislative Presiding Officer William J. Lindsay (D-Holbrook), said most districts had to shift eastward to secure the needed population of 83,000. The Islip district of Legis. Ricardo Montano (D-Brentwood) had to be reduced in size because of population growth in the last decade.

Deputy Presiding Officer Wayne R. Horsley (D-Babylon) called the new lines fair, and said they help incumbent Republican lawmakers as much as Democrats. He noted that the new plan puts no GOP lawmakers into the same district, as did GOP-drawn lines a decade ago that placed Lindsay and former Democratic Legis. Ginny Fields together. "At the end of the day, I think it will be a lovefest," Horsley said.

Suffolk League of Women Voters officials, who had pressed for a nonpartisan commission to draw lines, say districts ought to be drawn to encourage competitive races. "I'm glad it's not just one-sided, but the idea of reapportionment is not to cater just to incumbents," said Nancy Marr, the League's Brookhaven president and a former commission member. Marr said she had not seen the plan, but that the League will speak out at a public hearing June 5.

Legislators could vote on the plan once the hearing closes, as early as the second meeting in June.

Romaine called the Democrats' effort "obviously partisan." In his area alone, the map splits the communities of Eastport, Center and East Moriches, Manorville and Yaphank.

Cilmi said he was "very disappointed" that much of his hometown area was taken from his district. But he said he did not see it as an attempt to punish him but rather to bolster Democratic lawmakers. "It's clear their objective was to shore up Democratic districts and in doing that, they made Republican districts more Republican," he said.

Republican Legis. Thomas F. Barraga (R-West Islip) described himself as, "extremely happy" with the new lines. "I had a strong Republican district before -- now it's even stronger," he said. "It looks like all my prayers were answered."

Suffolk redistricting plan

New districts each would have a population of about 83,000

Villages would not be split between districts, though GOP lawmakers complain numerous unincorporated communities are divided.

Shelter Island goes to the 2nd district, represented by Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk). The town is in the First District, represented by Legis. Edward Romaine (R-Center Moriches).

GOP Legis. Tom Cilmi would lose about a quarter of his district in his home area of Bay Shore.

Dix Hills Democrat Steve Stern would pick up Democratic minority areas in North Bay Shore and Brentwood.

The Islip district of Legis. Ricardo Montano (D-Brentwood) is reduced in size because of population growth in the last decade.


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