Storefronts in Baldwin's downtown business district.

Storefronts in Baldwin's downtown business district. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Daily Point

Developing  a ‘community of interest’

Baldwin residents are pressing a newsworthy argument in the local redistricting process. Several of the hamlet’s civic voices say recent progress toward major downtown redevelopment there makes it more urgent that Baldwin be drawn into a single Town of Hempstead council district — rather than split up as it is now.

One principle of fair redistricting is consolidating, rather than cracking, communities of interest on the electoral map. Whether their argument impresses the Republican-run town government, or its consultant, now in the process of redrawing the town’s six districts, remains to be seen. But in a public hearing Tuesday by the town’s Temporary Redistricting Commission, Baldwin’s advocates sought to make that point.

Several speakers cited the relevance of a $100 million, five-story development with rental housing, restaurant and retail space, and an open plaza, moving forward.

Given a need for such changes, “you want to be able to reach out to your representative” who could become “a unified voice for what’s going on in your area,” resident Marguerite Grasing Keller testified. But she pointed out that the small radius of where she lives falls in three different districts.

Added Karen Montalbano, government liaison for the Baldwin Civic Association: “Our residents should not have to go to three different Town of Hempstead Council members and figure out who’s responsible for what area to get things done.”

Earlier this week, that group’s president Kimberly Malone said in a statement: “The Civic Association believes that it is crucial for one council member to shepherd the downtown redevelopment process. Furthermore, traffic improvements are underway on Grand Avenue, as well as park improvements under the auspices of both the county and the town.”

Along with a demand to increase the number of majority-minority districts, representatives of other communities also asked to be better consolidated, including Uniondale and Lakeview. A map proposal is due to be issued by the end of the month, with further hearings to follow after New Year’s.

— Dan Janison @Danjanison

Talking Point

Yup, every vote counts

More than five weeks have passed since Election Day, and with 2022 winding down, a close-as-possible race in the 23rd Assembly District in Queens remains undecided. At last count, incumbent Democrat Stacey Pheffer Amato led — by a single vote.

The court-conducted process, still grinding on, has involved an automatic hand recount triggered by the fact that Amato trailed GOP challenger Thomas Sullivan on election night by 246 votes out of more than 32,000 cast in the district.

Since then, 94 absentee ballots and four affidavit ballots were ruled void — but subsequently reinstated by a judge.

Now, a Republican appeal of that decision is pending two weeks before a new legislative class will be seated in Albany. In the regional red wave that reached across Long Island through the outer reaches of New York City, other familiar faces from the Democratic Party were jolted out of their Assembly seats.

Amato, first elected in 2016, represents the Rockaways — as did her mother Audrey Pheffer who for the past two decades has been the Queens County clerk.

New York divides into 150 Assembly seats and only 63 Senate seats. If the most minimal number of votes counts in the smaller legislative districts, so do the lines. And for the 2024 election those lines, like the 23rd Assembly District, remain up in the air.

So far the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission has agreed on a new map for the lower chamber. At least some revisions are expected with the state legislature due to approve or reject that map after a series of hearings early in 2023. For the moment, the district as drawn in the November election looks quite similar to the one proposed.

But could even a couple of houses drawn into or out of the district make all the difference next time? That’s more than hypothetically possible — as the current game of inches in the 23rd AD proves .

— Dan Janison @Danjanison

Pencil Point

If wishes were laptops

Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Mike Luckovich

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Final Point

Missing Green

The Green Party of New York has put out a strongly worded news release criticizing the speed of climate action in Albany and urging the State Legislature to come back in January with a more ambitious environmental plan.

It was a jolting demand not so much because of the content, which is classic Green policy, but the form: In gubernatorial election years, the party would have had a standard-bearer in the race to raise such issues. That has been true for every gubernatorial race after 1994.

But not this year, given Andrew Cuomo-era changes that made it harder for minor parties to keep a ballot line.

“It's frustrating,” says multiple-time Green gubernatorial hopeful Howie Hawkins, whom The Point caught by phone last week during his lunch break from jury duty selection in Onondaga County.

Hawkins, who was on the ballot for the Greens from 2010 to 2018, said that the lack of a Green candidate formally in the race this cycle curtailed the party’s ability to raise their issues. In previous years, he had been able to promote Green views like opposition to fracking — on the debate stage and in events, appearances, and media coverage. That was much harder this year.

Hawkins himself ran a write-in campaign, but it didn’t catch fire: The state Board of Elections logged less than 10,000 total write-in votes for any candidate out of nearly 6 million cast in early results. Hawkins said he still did some events in places like Albany and Syracuse, and he debated online with Libertarian Larry Sharpe who also did not have a ballot spot, but “not many people saw it,” Hawkins said.

The retired UPS worker saw hope ahead for the Greens, however, including the launch of campaigns for local office next year and state legislative ones the year after that. After that would come the consequential attempt to regain a perch on the gubernatorial ballot in 2026.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Programming Point

To our readers

The Point is taking some time off for the holidays. Our best wishes to you and your loved ones. See you in 2023!

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