Jack Martins.

Jack Martins. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Daily Point

Players jump off the maps onto the LI field

Leaders of a bipartisan commission that deadlocked — sending the redistricting process to the State Legislature and then court, where arguments continued Friday — are now partisan players on the Nassau County battlefield they’d sought to shape.

On one team is Republican Jack Martins, who served as vice chairman of the Independent Redistricting Commission now out of business. He’s running for his old State Senate seat in Nassau’s 7th district, which is still to be tweaked in the pending map plan, and where the incumbent is Democratic Sen. Anna Kaplan.

On the other team is Democrat David Imamura from Westchester County, who served as the IRC’s chairman. These days, he’s with the Abrams Fensterman law firm, based in Lake Success, where he confirmed to The Point he’s been working as an election attorney for Democratic House candidate Laura Gillen, the former Hempstead Town supervisor who’s running in the still-to-be-reshaped CD4.

On Friday, Imamura published an opinion piece on the web site City & State calling for structural changes in future commissions so that a deadlock cannot be used to deliberately throw the process into the courts.

In it, Imamura says Martins “clearly was interested in running for office again. In our marathon negotiating sessions, again and again we would come back to Nassau County (his home), and again and again we would be unable to agree on the districts where he conceivably would run.”

Martins replied to The Point that he pressed for two things for Nassau County while on the commission: Not to have Assembly or Senate districts straddle or break the Queens-Nassau line, and to keep minority communities whole on district maps in southern Nassau — the Hempstead, Roosevelt and Uniondale area.

More widely, Imamura in the piece cast blame on Martins and the commission’s four other Republicans for not agreeing to meet in January and pass a proposed plan to the Legislature. That breakdown was part — but not all — of the reason the state Court of Appeals threw out the lawmakers’ subsequent House and Senate plans.

But Martins had been complaining before that refusal that the Democrats would not negotiate a single set of maps to send to Albany for approval or rejection. He cites emails sent back and forth on the commission from that period. In one from Jan. 23, GOP member Willis Stephens tells Elaine Frazier, a Democratic appointee:

“Jack Martins has repeatedly indicated to David that we have a willingness to negotiate, compromise and, in particular, discuss where and why we can be flexible or not. As I understand it, David’s response was ‘we like our map and intend to stick to it.’ “

For campaign fodder, Kaplan spokesman Sean Ross Collins-Sweeney on Friday cited Imamura’s piece in trying to show undue manipulation by Martins, her declared GOP challenger. Martins filed to run under the now-voided lines.

In an upstate hearing before the court-appointed special master for redistricting, Jonathan Cervas, lawyers for opposing parties spoke up for different parts of what they want to add or keep in the judicially-approved districts. Some of the suggestions were based on the separate partisan IRC plans, some from the Democratic-skewed legislative plan.

For example, Democratic attorneys defended their earlier efforts to combine all Smithtown residents into a single House district instead of splitting the town into two on that map. They also urged holding Hispanic populations in Babylon and Islip together as earlier voted by the Legislature.

Discussions are due Tuesday in the same Steuben County court on whether Assembly lines should also be redone in the current election cycle — and the matter of whether those primaries will be moved from June 28 to Aug. 23 like the House and Senate party contests.

 — Dan Janison @Danjanison

Talking Point

Asking the right questions

A recently released online survey by the Regional Plan Association and Global Strategy Group shows some hints of a continued economic comeback across the region, as 35% of residents say they’re riding transit frequently, up nine points since the last survey in October. But those same residents are concerned — about crime first, followed by the high cost of living and the ability to find affordable housing.

The bulk of the survey focused on that last issue, as it’s always been a key topic for the RPA. And the association particularly drilled down on some of its recent efforts to expand accessory dwelling units and transit-oriented development. 

The RPA was one of the lead advocates of proposals Gov. Kathy Hochul pushed earlier this year that would have overridden local zoning by requiring communities to permit accessory dwellings on any single-family home and, in some cases, expand housing opportunities near public transit. Hochul eventually pulled the plans after significant backlash from local officials, especially on Long Island.

The RPA survey results seem to indicate significant support on the issues, noting that 67% of respondents, and 70% of those on Long Island specifically, support legalizing basement or garage apartments. Similar support existed when residents were asked whether they supported “allowing owners of single-family homes to convert one-family homes into two-family homes, so that there are more housing options in the New York City metropolitan area.” 

The numbers changed significantly, though, when residents were asked about “up-zoning neighborhoods” to allow bigger or taller buildings with more affordable housing. On that question, only 47% of Long Islanders, and 55% overall, were in support.

Even then, the numbers might be seen as better than expected for a region known for saying “no” to apartments and other similar proposals. Of course, it’s easy for Long Islanders to say “yes” in an amorphous survey. It’s a lot different to say “yes” when the proposal is for their neighborhood.

But it seems RPA missed a question if it really wanted to measure how deep the support was for actually getting any such housing approved on Long Island, such as asking directly about how Hochul’s controversial proposal would overcome resistance.

What would be the response breakdown, for instance, if the RPA asked: “Do you support or oppose a state effort to override local village and town zoning and bypass the local approval process to require communities to allow accessory dwelling units on all single-family homes?”

RPA spokesman Brian Fritsch, however, said the RPA's goal was a broader one.

"We're not particularly concerned with whether it's a state or local initiative," Fritsch told The Point. "There's genuine stress around housing … Any solutions that would help solve the affordable housing crisis we're facing right now should be considered … Keep all ideas on the table."

— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

Through the roof

Credit: AUSTRIA/Marian Kamensky

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Final Point

In the news

Welcome to this week’s news quiz, based on recent events. As usual, provide the answer for each clue, one letter per blank. The first letter of each answer, taken in order, spells the name of the Republican politician who in speaking about the 2024 presidential election said, "We won't win back the White House by nominating Donald Trump or a cheap impersonation of him. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."

A link to the answers appears below.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _   Republicans in this state advanced a bill that would classify abortion as homicide and allow prosecutors to criminally charge patients.

_ _ _ _ _ _       _ _ _ _ _ _ _   Globe-trotting member of President Joe Biden’s cabinet who tested positive for COVID-19.

_ _ _      _.      _ _ _ _   1973 Supreme Court decision at the heart of much of this week’s news.

_ _ _      _ _ _ _ _ _ _   Legendary singer-songwriter-pianist who fused many genres, helped integrate country music, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame along with The Judds.

_ _ _ _ _ _   New York City elevated its color-coded COVID-19 risk level to medium, as represented by this color.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _   Newly named White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre grew up in this Nassau County community.

_ _ _ _   One of two Midwestern states that kicked off the midterm election season with primaries on Tuesday.

_ _ _ _ _ _   One of two Mediterranean tourist-magnet countries to relax COVID-19 restrictions to make it easier for visitors to come.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _   President Joe Biden visited a Lockheed Martin facility in this state to spotlight its production of Javelin anti-tank weapons being shipped to Ukraine.

_ _ _     _ _ _ _ _ _   Southwestern state being ravaged by a monstrous wildfire that has burned more than 165,000 acres.

Click here for the answers to the clued words and to the identity of the mystery Republican politician.

— Michael Dobie @mwdobie


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